Turning the Page

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Bill Cockrell
 Sep 25, 2019

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Empowering your Mental Health - Faith: Hope: Love with Barry Pearman

Episode Date
Change Always Asks You to Walk on Water
11:29

When there is an invite to change, there is always that question of ‘Can I walk on water?’. But with repeated experiences, we can learn confidence and literally change the way our brain works.

I wanted to say ‘hi’ and introduce myself to her, but the ‘what if’s’ were started to hold me back inside my boat. What if she rejects me, ignores me, dismisses me?

I stepped out of the boat, walked on water, said ‘Hi’ and we have been married now for 34 years.

Walking on water is a brain change moment.

 

We all a little boat of beliefs about how life runs. We have shaped and sculptured our brain to think a certain way, believe certain things, and act in accordance.

But the boat can become cramped. Like an old jacket that once fitted us well, it now feels constricted and tight.

There is something about change that is difficult. There is a leaving behind what was once helpful and useful for that moment and then trying something new.

I am reminded of the story in the Bible of Abraham leaving his family and friends to go to another land. It wasn’t a farewell and see you next Christmas. It was a departure from known into the complete unknown.

Your Boat Their Water

What is your boat? I’m talking about the beliefs you have held and cherished and kept you supposedly safe.

Here are a few

  • If I’m in control, everything will be ok
  • God loves me, but it’s conditional on doing the right thing and following the rules.
  • My opinion has no worth.
  • I am unlovable
  • If it’s going to be then, it’s up to me

One thing I have noticed is that Spirit (Holy) doesn’t believe these things, and because of the nature of love, there is a mission of redemption going on.

It’s like watching a child who early in life decided that walking backward was the best way to get somewhere. But that’s not how it was meant to be.

So a caring parent helps them to learn to walk forwards and then life is so much easier.

Rob Bell writes this.

 

Spirit often exposes the assumptions we’ve been living with that we haven’t been aware of.

 

Spirit is on a mission to draw you to walk forwards.

 

Sometimes we’ve accepted rules and codes and limits without realizing it. And then Spirit blows in and exposes those assumptions, showing us how limited we’ve been, what we haven’t seen. We see what we don’t have to accept, how we can make new rules.

 

Spirit often reveals the ways in which we have ever so subtly submitted to the belief that this is just how it is.

 

Spirit refuses to accept that this is just how it is, because spirit is inherently creative. Rob Bell Everything is spiritual

 

 

But then there is the water. The unknown, the ‘what if’s’, the instability of ‘rocking the boat’, the fear of drowning in whatever is under the surface.

The call to walk on water

The story of Jesus’ friend Peter walking on water is familiar to many of us. It holds so many wonderful images that pull at the imagination.

As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them, and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!” Matthew 14:22-33

What was it that enticed Peter to be so bold and reckless to step out of the boat? I think it was a desire to be with Jesus. That ‘withness,’ that close physical contact, that delight in being with the Christ.

There was an allurement that maybe only a few of the disciples truly smelt. 

Fill my senses with your allure

Into the desert we plunge.

One of my favorite biblical passages talks about God alluring us into the desert.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. Hosea 2:14

Have you ever thought of God as a romantic lover? One that is powerfully and mysteriously attractive or fascinating. A tender, unconditional, overflowing love.

I look out of my boat of tightly held beliefs, fears, ‘what if’s’, and there is the allurement of a God that walks on waves.

Come Jesus says. Focus on me. Focus on the author of truth

I want to walk on water

In little ways, we can train our brain with ‘toes on the water’ experiences.

  • Can I dare to believe that I have value?
  • Can I trust my intuition?
  • Can I let go of some of the control I have exerted over others?

It all starts by training the mind to rest or dwell on truth.

The brain will take its neural shaping from what you have given it to mould itself upon.

The brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. Rick Hanson

I envision my brain, that physical structure between my ears, being like clay. Soft, pliable and plastic. I place it on top of some pattern. Perhaps the shape of a cross, or maybe an open and empty tomb, and then the brain molding itself over and around it.

The brain’s neural networks take on the very shape and nature of what it has been resting and dwelling on. It leaves its mark.

My thinking compass, a daily discipline and exercise, slowly and surely rewires the thinking.

Try it. Perhaps creating your very own thinking compass might be the first toe on the water experience.

As the wonderful title of a John Ortberg book says ‘If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat’.

Then, after many repeated daily readings of your thinking compass you might begin to notice that things have changed. You are seeing things differently. The boat is there but you have left it without even knowing it.

You’re walking on water and you might just begin to dance.

Quotes to consider
  • Like faded paintings on the wall that one never sees, because they’ve always been there, so are the assumptions that govern our lives. D. Riddell
  • Assumptions are what make the world go round, but they can also create hell-on-earth, until they are exposed and carefully examined. D. Riddell
  • The most effective way to dissolve self-doubt over the long term is to pick a phrase that resonates with you and repeat it many times throughout the day. Lauren Sapala
  • The decision to grow always involves a choice between risk and comfort. This means that to be a follower of Jesus you must renounce comfort as the ultimate value of your life. John Ortberg  If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat
  • The key to growing any psychological resource, including compassion, is to have repeated experiences of it that get turned into lasting changes in neural structure or function. Rick Hanson.  Resilient

Questions to answer
  1. Where is Spirit nudging you to step out of the boat?
  2. What is a little phrase that you set on auto-repeat for your brain to dwell on? Could it be ‘I am loved’?
  3. What would it be like to see, feel, taste, and become overwhelmingly intoxicated with the allurement of Christ? Would you seemingly forget about the water and start walking? 
Further reading

 

 

 

 

Barry Pearman

Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash

Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health

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Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health

Nov 26, 2020
Three Words to Build a Bridge Instead of a Wall into the Secret Garden.
11:02

We all have a secret garden. A place we don’t want others to go near, but with three little words, we can build a bridge and not a wall.

I had been having a conversation with someone, and then suddenly, I felt the protection of a wall.  The conversation changed, there was a ‘downplaying’ of the issue we talked about, and a new topic was introduced.

I could sense a wall protecting something, a tender topic, something they weren’t confident in exploring with me, yet if we were to grow in a relationship, we needed to be willing to build bridges and not walls.

“Let’s build bridges, not walls.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Three simple words build bridges and not walls.  Tell me more.

A Bridge or a Wall 

I remember a man coming to me once for some advice about his teenage daughter. She had become a bit rebellious, and he wanted to straighten her.

I asked him to tell me more. He explained the situation further, and I got to understand the crisis that had happened.

The invite for him was to either make a bridge or build a wall.

His initial response was to come down hard and strong with his rules and opinions. We talked about what would be the most likely outcome of this approach, and he decided that she would most likely build a wall. A structure that would inhibit a deeper relationship and bonding between his daughter.

The other option was to build a bridge. A means by which he could enter her world, get to know what was going on.

Hopefully, through his being a model of good relationship skills, she might want to enter his world and understand his fears, but that is never a promise.

It would take longer, require patience, and learning to be quiet and to listen.

So we talked about some questions that he could gently ask her.

The ‘Tell me more’ invites.

He could not express his opinion (No F.A.S.S. – no fixing, advising, saving, or setting one straight). He was to probe into the problem gently.

Over time and with many conversations, he and his daughter built a stronger relationship. Each of them had different views on all sorts of topics, but there was growing mutual respect.

Secret Garden

One of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs is Secret Garden.

He tells the story of wanting to enter the deepest parts of a woman’s life. It’s a secret garden, a place she hides and doesn’t let anyone in.

She’ll let you in her heart.If you got a hammer and a viseBut into her secret garden, don’t think twice.

She’ll lead you down a path.There’ll be tenderness in the air.She’ll let you come just far enough.So you know she’s really there.

She’ll look at you and smile.And her eyes will sayShe’s got a secret garden.Where everything you wantWhere everything you needWill always stayA million miles away.Bruce Springsteen

We all have secret gardens. Walls are built to keep ourselves safe.

We have been hurt, so self protectively, we build protection around ourselves.

But what walls do is that they hide the best of what the garden has to provide to the world.

The most precious rose is kept locked away, and no one can delight in its beauty and purpose.

I’ve snuck into a few people’s secret gardens. Seen the roses, smelt the fragrance, and helped some walls be taken down and rusty gates swing a little wider so others may be blessed by the beauty within.

Walls are needed

To be honest, some people will not treat the tenderness of your heart with the love and respect it needs and deserves. You’ve been there, done that, got the tee-shirt and the pain.

So you’ve built a wall, but you still want to be known. There is a flower garden in your soul that needs tender care and love.

You don’t want a mechanic, an engineer, or an accountant. You want a gardener to tend the soil, prune the vines and smell the roses.

True gardeners are hard to find.

It’s interesting to note that the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection was Mary, who thought he was the cemetery’s gardener. John 20:15 Perhaps he was. Maybe he was the gardener of dead souls.

Tell me more.

I want to know more. I want to understand.

Behind the problems we have are often secret gardens. We present with this issue, but really the deepest problem is hidden away behind walls and doors.

A king is one who searches things out.

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2

It might come in the form of these little questions and statements.

    • I want to know a little bit more.
    • Can you please explain?
    • I didn’t quite understand
    • Tell me more

A king builds bridges over the walls, peeks through the gates, looks at the fears and assumptions we have made, and explores the beauty within.

Don’t let your secret walled garden be lost to the world. We need the beauty and purpose you have within.

Quotes to consider
  • When you speak to me about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved: you want to be seen and heard, to have your truth acknowledged and honored. Parker J. Palmer
  • Sensitive listeners respond to comments with words that convey an interest in hearing more, sentences that open the door to information.  Words that open doors transmit two messages: 1.‘I am interested in whatever you have to say.’ 2.’I will accept you regardless of what you say.'” Larry Crabb
  • A brother has not given up all things if he holds onto the purse of his own opinions. St. Francis of Assisi
  • When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  •  Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech.” Parker J. Palmer.
Questions to answer
  1. What is in your secret garden?
  2. What are some gently curious questions that you could ask someone?
  3. Who has gently explored your secret garden?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Nov 18, 2020
I Arise Today and Bind around my Brain
11:48

We often have the same negative thoughts going around and around in our brains, but we can change them when we arise and bind the brain with truth.

I always marvel at those men and women who lift heavyweights. It takes time, effort, and wisdom. Many of them you will see wrap a binding around their wrists or their waist. Boxers wrap their hands.

Perhaps you have seen other athletes wrap some support around their legs.

All to give some extra support to some weaker and perhaps fragile are of the body. Perhaps it has been previously injured and needs some extra support.

The verb bind means to tie, secure,or fasten as with string or rope. 

I don’t want to wake up in the morning.

One of my most-read posts is the post ‘She prayed to God that she wouldn’t wake up in the morning.’ In fact, since writing it in July 2018, it has been read over 1600 times, and over 83% of those reads have come through a google search.

There are many that pray not to wake up in the morning.

Life at times can feel too heavy, too hard, and you want it all to end.

The thought of having to lift that heavyweight of life, yet again the next morning, creates feelings of despair and hopelessness. In that place of emotional pain, it all feels too much.

Your feelings feed your thoughts, and you find yourself in a downward spiral—a vicious spiral sinking you into the mud of hopelessness.

I wonder about the words, phrases, mottos, and sentences of thoughts that are repeatedly said over and over again. Binding them to the brain.

Words have power. Sentences have meaning. Paragraphs shape our beliefs. Life happens one thought at a time by default or design.

Bind them on your heart

In the Jewish faith, the men wear a phylactery called a Tefillin,, a small leather box containing Hebrew texts at morning prayer as a reminder to keep the law.

They, in a very literal sense, are binding scripture to themselves.

Then there are these verses that talk about the binding of scripture.

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. Deuteronomy 11:18

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;bind them around your neck;write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

My son, keep your father’s commandment,and forsake not your mother’s teaching.Bind them on your heart always;tie them around your neck.When you walk, they will lead you;when you lie down, they will watch over you;and when you awake, they will talk with you. Proverbs 6:20-22

This seems to be an active process. Not passive.

I arise, and I bind

Somewhere in the years between 390 and 461 A.D., a man by the name of Patrick writes a prayer. It’s a prayer about focusing your thoughts.

In the oldest translations from ancient Irish, we have the lines ‘I bind myself’ and then with later translations, we have ‘I arise today.’

“I arise today” is generally considered a better translation of the first line than “I bind unto myself today.” according to the hymnology archive. 

I think both versions have merit.

I pray St. Patricks prayer every morning as part of my thinking compass.

I bind unto myself to-dayThe strong name of the Trinity,By invocation of the same.The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever,⁠By power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;His baptism in Jordan river;⁠His death on cross for my salvation;His bursting from the spiced tomb;⁠His riding up the heavenly way;His coming at the day of doom;⁠I bind unto myself to-day.

I bind unto myself the power⁠Of the great love of Cherubim;The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour;⁠The service of the Seraphim,Confessors’ faith. Apostles’ word,⁠The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,All good deeds done unto the Lord,⁠And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself to-day⁠The virtues of the star-lit heaven.The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,⁠The whiteness of the moon at even,The flashing of the lightning free,⁠The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,The stable earth, the deep salt sea⁠Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself to-day⁠The power of God to hold and lead,His eye to watch. His might to stay,⁠His ear to hearken to my need.The wisdom of my God to teach,⁠His hand to guide. His shield to ward;The Word of God to give me speech,⁠His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,⁠The vice that gives temptation force,The natural lusts that war within,⁠The hostile men that mar my course;Or few or many, far or nigh.⁠In every place, and in all hours,Against their fierce hostility,⁠I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,⁠Against false words of heresy,Against the knowledge that defiles,⁠Against the heart’s idolatry,Against the wizard’s evil craft,⁠Against the death-wound and the burning,The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,⁠Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,⁠Christ behind me, Christ before me,Christ beside me, Christ to win me,⁠Christ to comfort and restore me,Christ beneath me, Christ above me,⁠Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,Christ in hearts of all that love me,⁠Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,⁠The strong Name of the Trinity;By invocation of the same,⁠The Three in One, and One in Three.Of Whom all nature hath creation;⁠Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:Praise to the Lord of my salvation⁠Salvation is of Christ the Lord.The Writings of Saint Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland/Version of Mrs. Alexander

What do you bind around your brain? 

What are the bindings that you arise with?

What are the support structures that you lace around your brain, giving it protection and shape?

Are there some bindings that are not so helpful? Repetitive self-talk that negates you.

Wouldnt it be better to build and bind truth and hope around your neural structures?

It’s not going to happen without some intent and purpose—a changing of habits.

Building a thinking compass

I use a thinking compass. A little tool that you can check back on at regular times to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

At its most basic, a thinking compass is a little notebook of written insights, prayers, and quotes that speak truth to you.

You read these every day so that you keep going on the right track.

I keep my compass in my phone. I have a list that I read every morning and often at night before going to sleep. I am training my brain.

Here are some of the little sentences that I bind around my brain.

    • What I focus on gets me. Focus on the negatives/ challenges will always take me down. Focus on the positive/good things will always give me hope.
    • Since every destination starts as a thought, I focus on where I want to go.
    • I design my life and build my future thought by thought.
    • The subconscious can be reprogrammed through cognitive reassessments.
    • No matter how strong, a feeling of hopelessness is an echo and perception from the past and is not how things really are.
    • The brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. I choose to rest it upon truth.
    • When I allow achievements to determine my mood, I will always be like a puppet on a string.
    • When my brain is full of what I’m not achieving, I will miss what I am achieving.
    • Life happens one thought at a time by default or design.

These are little truth nuggets that I need to remind myself of. There is a resistance to learning these new thoughts. The brain likes to keep us safe and in familiar territory, so it will take time for a new truth to replace the old.

Quotes to consider
  • You are the creator of your thoughts, and it’s your thoughts that can create the future that you want. It really is in your control. Dr. Shannon Irvine
  • If it’s been learned, it can always be unlearned. e.g., ways of coping, personal habits, survival kits, and nasty addictions. D. Riddell
  • The brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. Rick Hanson
  • Despair is a spiritual condition. Despair is when you fall under the belief and conviction that tomorrow will simply be a repeat of today. Rob Bell
Questions to answer
  1. What are some truths that you need to train your brain in?
  2. If you were able to tell your younger self something, what would it be?
  3. Is there a scripture that you need to train your brain in?
Further reading

 

 

Barry Pearman

Photo by Jannis Lucas on Unsplash

Nov 11, 2020
Building a New Confidence from the Ash
11:42

There was no self-confidence. It was gone like vapour from ash. But something reignited when we looked at the pebbles and not the mountain.

It was like I was looking at an empty shell. They were there in the room with me but there was very little confidence within them to do anything at all.

It had gone. Any self-belief they had seemed to have been sucked right out of them.

How did this happen? Well, they had been hammered on.

What does that mean?

Well, it was like someone had come, with a large hammer and pounded against the very fabric of who they were. The hammer was words.

‘You’re wrong, that’s not right, why are you doing that, your stupid’

It was loud, persistent, and kept on coming much like a dripping tap.

Eventually, that constant dripping wore an indentation out of the soft-hearted place of their soul.

The indentation became a hole. The hole became a chasm. The chasm became a vacuumous empty shell.

Being a shell there was a fragility and the possibility of it being completely crushed.

It was soul abuse.

Sitting in the ashes

I have found that there is much healing and hope to be found in simply being with the other. What this does is that it establishes the person as having significance.

They matter. Not for what they do but for who they are.

When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly,God is the electricity that surges between them. Martin Buber

One of the familiar images we have in the Bible is that of broken people sitting in ashes. Job 2:8; Esther 4:1; Jonah 3:5–7.

We find people, much like ourselves, covering themselves with ashes at times of grief, loss, and brokenness.

What’s leftover is mere ash.

As I write this I am looking at a fireplace. The fire Has long been extinguished and all that is left is the remnants of what was. The heat has gone, the bulk of wood has been consumed, and now only fragments of what was being left behind.

I sit with the ashes of what was and wait to see what comes forth.

Strawberries from ashes 

Last night I had my very first spring strawberries for dessert. I went out into the garden to the strawberry bed, lifted up the bird net, and plucked six ripe large berries.

A few months earlier I had taken ashes from the fire and spread them around the strawberries.

You see there is something quite useful in wood ash. It’s called Potassium (K). In fact, wood ash contains 10% potassium which is very high for any natural substance that is used as a fertilizer.

Ash is also full of trace elements.

Potassium is vitally important for reproduction – flowering, setting seeds, fruiting.

Ash contains the potency of new life.

Please stop talking at me

I’ve sat in the ashes where there is burnout, depression, anxiety, confusion, loss. Confidence gone like a vapoury smoke.

People suggest things to do. They make recommendations, set out plans and prescribe what needs to happen. At times you just want to put them out of the room – your mental health room.

But no one dares to sit in the ashes with them. No one is sharing breathe over the embers hoping something will reignite.

No one is holding them in an embrace of love.

Reigniting the soul

I like to look and listen for the smallest of the small and in the pile of ashes, there is a problem.

How do we reignite the soul?

There is a felt emotion of being crushed under a mountain.

I so want to see the breath come back into the dry bones of this fellow traveler.

This person who can’t get out of bed, brush their teeth, or cook a simple meal.

How do I empower the soul to move?

I look at the pebbles under the mountain.

The pebble

We all have problems. They can feel like mountains.

It’s important to understand that it is a feeling. For one person that mountain will seem inconsequential, a mere speck, but for the one in ashes, it may feel like a  towering dark citadel of doom.

They look at it and they are crushed. Any confidence vanishes.

Feelings only report what is familiar.

But under every mountain is a pebble that can be shifted. It could even be the size of a mustard seed.

We find that pebble and empower the moving.

Building a new confidence

I simply love seeing someone list out their problems in a very pragmatic way without any emotional attachment.

First, we see the mountains. The obvious problems. Powerful, intimidating, and confidence-sapping.

Then we break those mountains down a bit and discover other problems. Not quite so daunting but they are still there.

Under those medium-sized ‘problem’ rocks will be smaller and smaller rocks until we find a pebble.

To this pebble, we begin problem-solving and looking for a highly achievable solution. We create a S.T.A.N. plan and move forward.

It’s here that a new confidence can grow from. Empowering those little steps.

It could be the little steps needed to brush your teeth once a day. To get out of bed. To make a simple meal.

Building a new confidence is looking for little achievements. Praising, celebrating, and affirming their worth.

In the brain, new pathways are forming. There is healing and repair.

Out of the ash a seed germinates, puts down roots, and begins to flourish through the ash of the past.

There is still a fragility to the new emerging confidence. So we need others to continue to praise and affirm any new steps made.

Remember that mountains are shifted one stone at a time. Focus on the pebble in front of you, not the mountain.

Quotes to consider
  • I arise todayThrough a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,Through a belief in the Threeness,Through confession of the OnenessOf the Creator of creation. Prayer of St. Patrick
  • When I believe my feelings, and those feelings misrepresent reality, I am headed for a self-referential pit that will get deeper and darker as I dig myself into my home-made delusion. David Riddell
  • Your feelings are not a reliable guide to what you should and shouldn’t do. They merely reflect sub-conscious beliefs, which may need to be examined. David Riddell
  • Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. Pema Chödrön
  • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
Questions to answer
  1. Have you ever had a time when all confidence seemed to have disappeared? What reignited it?
  2. Why do we rush to problem solve the big mountain problems rather than the pebbles?
  3. What is a pebble problem in your life that if addressed could ignite a new confidence in yourself?

Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Somia DCosta on Unsplash

Nov 04, 2020
Are you helping too much
11:38

You might be helping them too much and hinder any progress for them and yourself, but we can learn new ways of helping and see the change we want for them and ourselves.

She was helping too much, and the person she was helping didn’t mind one little bit. In fact, he was very adept at throwing guilt trips and manipulations to keep her supporting his lifestyle.

It wasn’t that she was doing anything wrong. Many people thought she was so wonderful how she took care of him and others. She was so generous and kind. What a lovely Christian woman, they said.

But underneath that mission of martyrdom, there was a dying soul. Life was being sucked out of her, and resentment was taking a foothold. For all the help, she was giving out, and nothing was coming back.

She had hoped for something different, but now patterns had been formed. Expectations of her compliancy were normalized. She was a slave to the foolishness of others and not a servant of truth.

 Nabal and Abigail

In the bible, there is a fascinating story of an interplay between a husband and wife.

The husband, Nabal, was a wealthy and successful farmer. He is described as being ‘crude and mean in all his dealings’ and ‘ill-tempered.’ His servants lived in fear of him. When they had bad news for him, they were too afraid of him. Instead, they told his wife, Abigail.

Abigail is described as being ‘sensible and beautiful.’  She was one that the servants felt safe with. Most likely, she probably nudged and prodded Nabal into making good decisions and kept from making bad ones.

So the story goes that Nabal’s flocks and shepherds had been protected and kept safe by David and his men. David wanted some payment for his work, so he sent messengers asking for payment. Nabal, in his arrogance and foolishness, refused David and was unwilling to be generous.

David was furious and was going to come with 400 hundred men and attack Nabal.

Word of this gets to Abigail, and she intervenes with ‘sensible and beautiful’ wisdom. She meets David and his men before he gets to Nabal and calms the whole situation down.

When she returns to Nabal, he is partying like a king. She waits till the next morning, when he is sober, and tells him all of what had occurred.

He has a stroke in the shock of it all, and ten days later, he is dead.

I wonder

As I read this story, I wonder how many times had Abigail, and the servants had tiptoed around an angry, arrogant Nabal. How many similar stories were in the background that had enabled this fool to remain in his foolishness.

We all do it, though, don’t we? We tiptoe around some people, not wanting to rock the boat and cause upset.

But all along, a growing resentment and bitterness can eat away at the soul. Even Abigail considered Nabal a wicked and ill-tempered man, a fool, and not worthy of paying attention to.

We don’t know exactly what kept Abigail and the servants enabling Nabal’s bad behavior. Perhaps it was fear, often it is.

What we do know is that Abigail told it like it was. She told the story, and the story had the natural impact it needed to have.

Natural consequences

A natural consequence is anything that happens naturally.

If you go out in the rain, you are going to get wet. When you don’t eat, you get hungry. If you don’t pay your bills, such as Nabal, then the debt collectors will come.

You reap what you sow, and you don’t reap unless you sow.

When we intervene and protect people from the natural consequences of their actions, nobody learns anything. People often keep doing foolish things, and then we intervene, and they reap a crop different from what would have naturally grown out of their decisions.

Much of our kindness, I believe, is actually keeping people in systems of dependency.

People change when they

One of my favorite quotes about change is this one from John Maxwell.

People change when they hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, and receive enough that they are able to. John C. Maxwell

    • Hurt enough, they have to. Often it isn’t until the pain is so unbearable that there is a realization that change is needed. Consider the prodigal son eating pig food. It wasn’t until then that he ‘came to his senses’
    • Learn enough that they want to. It’s all very well knowing you have to change or being told you have to change, but what is the process for changing, and what is the motivation? Often it is only when we learn some new information, have a roadmap and get some instruction that change can take place. 
    • Receive enough they are able to. I like this because it talks to me about the need for encouragement and support—someone cheering on the millimeter movements.

You have to have all three.

Let’s get pragmatic about helping

We can get so easily swamped down in the emotions of our problems. The fears and anxieties become giants towering over our lives. We cower and live in fear of the unknown.

At times we need to get very logical and pragmatic about the situations we face.

Pragmatic – dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.

It’s nuts and bolts. What can and can’t be done.

This is why I love the Problem-solving process. It takes the problem out of the emotional realm and into the practical realm.

When we can become quite pragmatic about the problems, we have then practical solutions can emerge.

Quotes to consider

  • God doesn’t always save us from the consequences of our actions. But He doesn’t celebrate our pain either. He doesn’t ask us to minimize it or pretend it isn’t there. Instead, He offers His love and unending compassion as we walk through whatever we’re facing. Aundi Kolber Try Softer
  • God has solutions for people who admit they have problems. Larry Crabb
  • Our primary purpose is not to use God to solve our problems, but to move through our problems toward finding God. Larry Crabb
  • You cannot save everyone. Some people are going to destroy themselves no matter how much you try to help them. Bryant McGill
  • Are you a rescuer? A person allowed to avoid the consequences of their faulty decisions is also sentenced to constantly repeat their mistakes, for they did not have to learn from them.  D. Riddell
  • Whose problem is it? Don’t own your child’s [or anyone else’s] problem for them. They must experience the consequences of their own faulty choices.  D. Riddell
  • Don’t punish people. Just let the consequences of their choices do your punishing for you. D. Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. What problems do you need to get more pragmatic about?
  2. Why do we take on others’ problems as if they were our own?
  3. What did you think about this quote from John Maxwell? How could it be applied to your life? People change when they hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, and receive enough that they are able to. John C. Maxwell
Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

 

Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

Contact me here

Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health

Oct 29, 2020
Welcoming a Stranger and Finding an Angel
09:15

There are many lonely people. Strangers in a strange land, but we can welcome them and perhaps discover an angel in disguise.

I was visiting a home the other day, and an older lady met me. I had never met her before, and she told me that she was visiting her daughter and son-in-law, who lived there.

We chatted briefly about the garden work I needed to do then she offered me a coffee. I said that would be great after I finished the job.

I duly finished the job, and she brought me a refreshing cup of coffee.

Then we had a chat. Nothing more than light conversation, but then she shared about a recent tragedy in the family.

She opened up her heart and soul, and the words flowed.

It was a sacred moment, and I felt that I was on holy ground. We were in church together.

A stranger had entered my world, and I felt the pull to listen.

I wondered later that if she had put her own needs to the side in her caring for her family. That there had been no one for her to be soulful with, and then I happened to come along with a few gentle questions.

Story two.

Recently I heard of a young man that I know and how the pressure of life and relationships had become just too much.

He was going to take his own life. A stranger saw him and felt concerned. She talked him down and got him help.

He’s doing well now and has some good support.

Strangers and Angels

There is a strange little passage in the bible about strangers and Angels.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

I don’t think I have ever met an angel. Certainly, not one portrayed in art – half-naked, wings, harps, and with that surreal faraway glow.

But I do wonder sometimes about angelic interventions. Could that have been an angel that intervened in that young man’s life? I don’t know.

As I listened to the grieving mother’s heart, was there a third person in the midst of it all. Were their angels in attendance?

Orphans, widows, and strangers

Throughout the Bible, we find the call to be hospitable to those on the outside.

Ron Rolheiser writes why this was important.

 First, because the Jewish people themselves had once been foreigners and immigrants. Their scriptures kept reminding them not to forget that.

Second, they believed that God’s revelation, most often, comes to us through the stranger, in what’s foreign to us. That belief was integral to their faith.

The great prophets developed this much further. They taught that God favors the poor preferentially and that consequently we will be judged, judged religiously, by how we treat the poor.

The prophets coined this mantra (still worth memorizing):

The quality of your faith will be judged by the quality of justice in the land; and the quality of justice in the land will always be judged by how orphans, widows, and strangers fare while you are alive. Ron Rolheiser 

The Crisis of Loneliness

I have made it a rule that whenever I am working on a garden, and I happen to be near the sidewalk, I always welcome the stranger. I always say hello to someone who is walking past.

They may be walking to work, out for a stroll, earbuds in, or have a dog on a leash.

They generally pass a welcome back to me.

One day I did this, and the lady with the dog stopped. We got chatting about the garden I was working on, and she invited me to come to her home and work in her garden.

She lived alone and needed some help. There were good conversations included too.

The world, I believe, is becoming increasingly isolated. COVID 19 hasn’t helped either with social isolation rules and fears of contagion.

Are you living on the street? 

How much do you put yourself in the place where strangers walk?

I know that this would create high levels of anxiety and fear for some of you, but for many of you, I would like you to step outside of your comfort zone and place yourself in the way of the stranger.

I sometimes get emails from my readers. They share something of themselves. Perhaps it’s a matter of prayer or concern that they want to talk about.

I’m working on the street where everyone passes by. Each week I say hi to around 550 email subscribers, and some say hi back.

Some invite me, and we’re no longer strangers. Some are no longer stray dogs looking for a place to rest.

Treating them like an Angel

I wonder what would happen in this lonely world if we treated every stranger like they were an angel—a heavenly messenger sent by God for some divine purpose.

Finding little ways to be hospitable and show kindness.

Perhaps with some openness to the stranger, we will receive a fresh message or a revealing of who and what God is like.  I know that is what happened for one such couple a few years ago.

Let’s build a community where we welcome strangers, orphans, and widows into our hearts.

Quotes to consider
  • In welcoming the stranger, in showing real hospitality to those who seem foreign to us, whom we do not understand, we are given the opportunity hear new promise, to hear a fuller revelation of God. Ron Rolheiser 
  •  The role of the stranger in our lives is vital in the context of Christian faith, for the God of faith is one who continually speaks truth afresh, who continually makes all things new.God persistently challenges conventional truth and regularly upsets the world’s way of looking at things. It is no accident that this God is so often represented by the stranger, for the truth that God speaks in our lives is very strange indeed.Where the world sees impossibility, God sees potential.Where the world sees comfort, God sees idolatry.Where the world sees insecurity, God sees occasions for faith.Where the world sees death, God proclaims life.God uses the stranger to shake us from our conventional points of view, to remove the scales of worldly assumptions from our eyes.God is a stranger to us, and it is at the risk of missing God’s truth that we domesticate God, reduce God to the role of familiar friend.  Parker Palmer – The Company of Strangers
Questions to answer
  1. What opportunities do you have to welcome the stranger?
  2. How is modern life constructed to keep the stranger away?
  3. Who has welcomed you?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator with a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

Contact me here

Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health

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Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health

Oct 23, 2020
Stray Dog Church
08:45

We meet in my garage on Tuesday night. That’s so if you wanted to go to a normal Church, you could. Some of my friends still go to the big church on the corner, but most of them call 32 Calvary St their home base.

Let me introduce you to some of them.

John – he plays a mean guitar. He said he had learned some licks from his Uncle. He didn’t know many Jesus songs, but we love him belting out the stairway to heaven.

Mary – Her scones are her specialty. We have them each week with some diet coke, and we call it the last supper. Mary sometimes hears voices, and we help her by telling her the truth and reassuring her.

Nick – here is an interesting character. He had once been a high rolling businessman but then lost heaps of money and found himself on the street. He knows a thing or two. Shame and loss seem to fill his life. He’s our kind of treasurer.

Susie – Now this lady can talk. She could talk the spout off a boiling kettle. Actually, she is very lonely and needs others to hear her and sense their love for her. We listen and love as best we can.

J.C. – he is ugly. Ugly as sin. Scars and wounds all over his body. Even in his hands. It’s hard to even look at him, but we love him so much, and he loves us. One night, he told us that he was the Son of God, but we wondered if he was hearing voices or something. He is kind and caring and often has some very wise words to share from time to time.  Strangely he is always here. He goes by the name ‘J.C.,’ and we still haven’t figured out his real name. Mystical kind of man.

Francis – or Fran as she liked to be known lives in a posh house on Baker st. She is retired now and lives on the pension. She had grown tired of the big ‘normal’ church where everyone seems to pretend and be nice. Pews full of folks with masks up and socially distanced hearts.

Jimmy – some of the ladies aren’t too sure around Jimmy. He has a porn addiction. We love him because, well, we all have our flaws. We listen to his failures and the hunger of his heart.

Teri or Terry – she/he was born a female but feels more male. We love Teri, and she loves us, and that’s all that matters. She’s on a journey like all of us. J.C. seems to have a special affection for her.

Bill – that’s me. I’m an ex-pastor for Jesus. I have a house, a garage, and a few vegetable plots in the back yard. The front deck is my favorite place in the universe. I sit there in the sun, read a book, and chat with friends, neighbors, and stray dogs as they pass by. Sometimes they come and rest awhile and sit next to me, and we go deep.

There are others too. It’s a place where anything can happen and usually does. It’s love, forgiveness, grace, and hope.

People from the big church come with their programs and personas. They want to change us and to conform us to what they think a church should be.

Some of them actually stay and sit for a while. They lean into the love we share and discover some morsels of love and wisdom. J.C. seems to be always at the heart of all that.

We sit on old couches, beer crates, and those cheap plastic chairs the rich people throw out when they begin to look a bit tarnished.

We have a donations box by the back door, and if you can put in a couple of cents, that’s cool. As I said, Nick takes care of the wealth. Sometimes there is enough to buy a few sausages for a barbeque. We’re actually saving up so we can go to the beach. Some of us have never seen the sea.

I suppose at the heart of Stray Dog is that we want to listen and love. Sure, some of us have plenty to say, but most of us simply want to be known.

I tried big church for along time. Sit here, sing this, listen to that. Give this, vote on that. Conform to a tightening square box.

Didn’t work for me. I simply like to listen to them, share a scone and a coke, and to laugh at their jokes.

Stray Dog.

People ask us why we call ourselves ‘Stray Dog.’ Well, it because we all have at times felt like stray dogs. Wandering from place to place, looking for a home and a meal. We have scavenged a few morsels from here and there, but no one has truly made us feel welcome for who we are.

Want to have a stray dog church?

Go out into the highways and byways and look for the stray dogs and find empty garages with old tattered couches.

J.C. told us once that he likes to visit friends in the ‘city streets, alleys, and country roads. They look like they need a square meal. They are the misfits, homeless and wretched’ Luke 14:15-24

This is the church, but probably not as you know it.

Quotes to consider
  • The wounds you have experienced are valid. Maybe no one has ever said that to you, so I hope you’ll receive this now: What’s happened in your life matters.  Aundi Kolber
  • ‘Whom do we listen to and whom do we trust? Trust is essential to listening. Why do we believe the myth that the poor people don’t know anything and can’t be trusted? Where do you really find more truth about society – at the top or the bottom? Are the best solutions conceived in the corridors of power or in the neighbour hoods? Only those willing to stand close enough to listen will ever hear those closest to the problem. Jim Wallis
  • People with handicaps teach me that being is more important than doing, the heart is more important than the mind, and caring together is better than caring alone. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Questions to answer
  1. In your neighbourhood who are those on the city streets, alleys, and country roads. The misfits and outcasts? Do you know their name?
  2. What do we need to let go of to create a stray dog community?
  3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that the person who loves those around them will create community. What would that look like, on a vulnerable level, in your community?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Sonya Brady on Unsplash

Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

Contact me here

Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health

Oct 23, 2020
Six People To Put Out Of Your Mental Health Room
16:37

Six people you don’t want help from, and there could be more; therefore, its time to detach from them and have them leave your emotional room.

There are some people that I am wary of getting help from or even suggesting others get help from. They may be well-meaning, have good intentions, and a deep desire to help, but they come up short on wisdom.

There is something about them that just doesn’t feel right and shouts ‘avoid.’

Have you come across people like that?

People to avoid

In my ebook, ‘So you want to help,’ I list five helping type people that I would encourage you to avoid.

Today I add a sixth.

 1. Fundamentalist Fred.Fred comes alongside and doesn’t lighten the load but adds to it. He lays down the rules, the principles, and tells the person to try harder.

It’s all black and white. You’re either in, or you’re out. There is no room for mystery. 

2. Super Spiritual Sally.Sally comes alongside with a big cheery smile on her face but ignores the reality of what the person is facing. She offers a few quick spiritual platitudes, tosses a ‘Praise the Lord’ here and there, and then she’s off to the next person. 

‘Can I pray for you’ is offered before truly listening for the depths. It’s too scary and unknown to go there.

She lives in a spiritual ‘La-la land’ with doses of ‘Woo -Woo.’

3. Rescuing Rachel.Rachel just loves to help. She comes alongside, takes the burden off the other person, and makes it her own. Isn’t she just so caring!

She continues to carry and rescue without wisdom. She eventually becomes overwhelmed and exhausted.

Caring does not mean carrying. The servant becomes a slave.

4. Program Pete.Pete has the answer. He has a course, he has a book, and he has a lecture to give. Pete comes alongside and informs.

He takes people to the course; provides the information and says, ‘just go and do it!’

He walks away in frustration because, in his learned opinion, people are lazy and don’t want to change.

5. Superficial Sarah.Let’s keep things light on the surface. If you’re smiling, Sarah will smile with you; if you’re not, she won’t know what to do.

Sarah is hesitant to talk about anything that might be difficult. She avoids the people who are in obvious pain. She likes happy endings and fairy tale novellas.  

6. Blind BillBill has sight problems in that he can’t see beyond the here and now to what could be. There is no compelling vision that excites or allures him to go deep and be patient with the larger story being played out.

His mindset is stuck. Worse still is that he can be quite mocking and cynical of those that can look beyond the present struggle. 

There might be others too that are less than helpful. Perhaps you can see yourself in some of them.

Put them out of the room.

One of the enjoyments of reading the Bible many times is that you start to see little snippets and sentences which make you want to reread the story again and again.

You start to see things that weren’t so obvious in the first reading.

One of those is this Jesus story, where he came across some people he chose not to seek their help or opinions. He was laughed at for his wisdom.

When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet.  He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 

When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.  He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).

Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. Mark 5:21-24; 35-42

I have this movie in my imagination, where I see Jesus shooing out all these people from the room. A bit like a shepherd moving stray sheep that have wandered into a house.

Or maybe it was like herding cats. Chasing them around the room to get them out.

Some people want to be there for the show, the entertainment. This, of course, was the synagogues leader and his daughter.

But nothing great was going to happen while the room was full of critics and mockers. Nothing of astonishment was going to be seen while a bunch of Blind Bill’s were dominating the stage and holding the microphone.

Jesus put them out of the room, and then the healing began.

Who are you surrounding yourself with

From time to time, you have to think about who you are surrounding yourself with. Who is in the room?

Some questions need to be asked.

    1. Who is in ‘my room’? Friends, family, neighbors, celebrities, writers, podcasters, etc
    2. What influence do they have over me?
    3. Do I give them too much sway over me?
    4. Am I trying to get something from them that they don’t know how to give, e.g., approval, love, recognition?
    5. Are others wanting to keep me in a box that I sense I am moving out of?

Jesus warned his followers about giving out your very best to people who don’t appreciate it. He described it like this.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” Matthew 7:6

Those wailers and naysayers in the home of Jairus were trampling and mauling over Jesus’ holy intentions. Nobody needs pigs and dogs, soiling God’s good work.

Putting them out of the room 

I suppose it’s about lines of love and respect (boundaries).

We need to prayerfully ask Spirit (Holy) to nudge you about those people that are in your room and not helping.

What emotional connection do they have? What sway?

For some people where there is little physical connection, such as celebrities, writers, etc., it’s easy to unsubscribe, disconnect, and turn off.

But what about if it’s your spouse or a family member. Someone who you cant easily turn off.

Jesus offers us some wisdom about taxing people. People who want to tax your life, restrict it, and hold you back.

They sent some Pharisees and followers of Herod to bait him, hoping to catch him saying something incriminating. They came up and said, “Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don’t pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

He knew it was a trick question, and said, “Why are you playing these games with me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.” They handed him one.

“This engraving—who does it look like? And whose name is on it?”

“Caesar,” they said.

Jesus said, “Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.”

Their mouths hung open, speechless. Mark 12:13-17

We give others what they rightfully deserve – love and respect, but that which is in the room called holy, beautiful, tender, and full of Spirit delight, well, only those who have earned the right get to have a look are allowed in.

It’s about acknowledging your self-worth that you have something both beautiful and impacting inside of you.

Then you quietly, and maybe not so quietly at times, kick out the stray dogs and greedy pigs.

Pigsty

When my kids were little, I used to read a story to them called Pigsty.

It tells the story of a boy called Wendell Flutz.

Wendell Flutz’s room isn’t a mess. It’s a total pigsty. But Wendell’s mother can’t get him to clean it up. Wendell doesn’t think the mess is so awful. In fact, he doesn’t even mind it when one day he discovers a real pig sitting on his bed!

Wendell didn’t mind when the first pig moved into his room. They were friends, but then other pigs turned up and started to dominate his life.

Spoiler alert. It all started to change when Wendell took control, cleaned up his room, and the pigs didn’t find it so appealing. They left.

Perhaps many of us have allowed pigs into the living room when they should be out back in the yard doing piggy things.

A better friend

We can’t live in isolation. Cheerleaders and people who ‘get you’ are crucial for your ongoing journey.

In seeking out the ‘Jesus’ type people, those who deserve to be in your room, it’s going to be slow and tender.

Look for those who will hold you in love and respect no matter what they might discover. They ask gently curious questions rather than being quick to advise.

Prayerfully ask for discernment amongst the myriad of voices that come to you.

It takes time to clean up the pigsty, but you can do it.

Quotes to consider
  • Talk’s easy, work’s hard. Consistent trustworthy behavior over time equals trust. Notice the word consistent is emphasized. Consistency is the key to the process. Stefanie Carnes Mending A Shattered Heart
  • If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when? Hillel the Elder
  • And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live.Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.Perfection is static, and I am in full progress.Abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones.Anaïs Nin
Questions to answer
  1. Who is in ‘your room’ and has an influence that is not helpful?
  2. Why do some people want to keep you in the same box and not want you to change?
  3. What are the qualities of a ‘Jesus’ type person you want to have in your room?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Michael Jasmund on Unsplash

Oct 08, 2020
When You’re Feeling Stuck in a Dark Hole
11:05

Sometimes we can find ourselves stuck in a dark hole and feel like we are going down, but there is hope when we open ourselves to the connection and support from others.

One of the properties I work on as a gardener is a small farm and I get to use a tractor for some of the jobs I do.

I was driving the tractor one day when all of a sudden I couldn’t move forward. I could see my wheels going round but there was little movement.

All had been going well. I was having a great day.

Driving the tractor, shifting dirt, and making the paddock I was in look tidier and neater. That was until my large wheels broke through the crust of soil and I discovered the mud and muck underneath.

I sunk.

I tried to back out but that didn’t help. The tractor was now up to its axle in mud. The heavy back wheels were a rim of mud and any movement I tried made the situation worse.

I got a spade and started to dig tracks out for the tractor, but it stuck like glue.

I was also stuck and felt shame. That sense of embarrassment and self-loathing.

All the old familiar critical self-talk started to flow around me.

    • I’m so stupid
    • I’m a failure
    • I should have …

I read once that the word shame can be an acronym S.H.A.M.E – Should Have Already Mastered Everything.

In my emotional life, I was sinking fast.

I have been at times stuck in the mud of my own life. Dark black holes have seemed to want to swallow me up.

Telling yourself to ‘Pull yourself together’ doesn’t have any effect on the glue of a dark hole.

When you’re stuck

I remember getting that tractor stuck and I also remember what I did next. I phoned a guy I know with a truck to come and help pull me out.

He turned up and we attached a rope between the tractor and the truck. With his truck pulling and my tractor wheels turning we slowly and quietly got free of the hold.

That was easy.

Getting out of a personal dark hole is not as simple but we can learn some lessons from this very exciting and riveting story. (I’m open for movie deals)

Friends, Neighbors, and a Birds Nest

I was raised on a farm and when you live in isolated rural communities you understand the need to have a connection with your neighbors.

You never quite know when you might need the help of a neighbor to pull your tractor out of the mud, fight a fire, or to be rescued from a flood.

Survival relies on being in community.

In good communities, you look out for each other. You notice when someone is acting differently. A change has occurred and you are gently curious.

Years ago a counselor suggested that I might like to become part of a bird’s nest for one of their clients. Puzzled, I asked for more explanation.

He explained that this particular person had several people in their life that offered some sort of gift, skill, or role in their recovery. Each person was like strands of fiber in a bird’s nest.

There was a doctor, nurse, psychiatrist, support worker, dietician, friend, family, and many other people. I was invited to be the pastor and our small church – The Living Room could add other layers of support.

We all have a birds nest of relationships that support us. People we can call on when we get stuck. People who might also notice when were heading for the mud pit.

Ropes

My friend with the truck brought a rope with him. There had to be some sort of connection to the power and resources he had and the power and resources I had.

In that bird’s nest of relationships, people will have different gifts and skills they can bring. But there must be a connection for the transfer of power and resources to take place.

In the darkest of holes, there has to be some sort of reaching out for help.

I’m not a huge fan of rescuing.

Doing something for someone that they could do for themselves. It can create both dependency and repetition of behaviors that got you in the dark hole in the first place.

Instead, we need truth and insights to help ourselves change. Much like you build into your life in a thinking compass.

Encouragements

‘You can do this’

‘I am with you’

‘Together we will get through this’

When you’re in a dark hole, stuck in the mud, you need people on the sideline who will cheer you on. They have a compelling vision of seeing you out of there.

They believe in change often because they have been in those very same dark holes themselves.

When we encourage we breathe courage into the heart of another.

The word encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart”. So does the word courage.  To have courage means to have heart. To encourage – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart. “Encouraging the Heart – A leader’s guide to rewarding and recognizing others” by Kouzes/Posner

Are you stuck in a dark hole?

Has something I have written connected to where you are at the moment?

Perhaps a total stranger might be the one that can reach down into your ditch and offer you a hand to help you out.

In that famous story that Jesus told of a man robbed, beaten, and left for dead in a ditch it wasn’t the professional and trained that first came to his aid. It was someone unexpected. A stranger.

I have noticed that people at times open up to strangers in ways that they wouldn’t with family or friends. There’s no history or social conventions or pretense that gets in the way. They let their guard down and it all pours out.

If you want to talk to a total stranger and let it all come tumbling out without judgment then here is my email address barry@turningthepage.co.nz or you can use the contact form in the sidebar.

You can also find out more about me here.

I may just have a few ropes that we can use to pull yourself out of that dark hole.

Quotes to consider 
  • When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
  • The main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. The danger is that of coming to love the prison. C.S. Lewis
Questions to answer
  1. In the past, when you have been stuck in a dark hole, what has helped you?
  2. What are the qualities of a good friend?
  3. Why do we at times open up to complete strangers in ways that we wouldn’t with friends or family?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Luke Brugger on Unsplash

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Oct 01, 2020
Where is That Overreaction Coming From?
10:29

We can have an overreaction to life’s events, but when we search out what’s behind the reaction, we often find history-based pain. Let’s help the prickly pear.

It was a reaction I wasn’t expecting. I had made a few jokes, and their response wasn’t to have a simple laugh with me but to get highly defensive and even go on the attack.

Have you ever wondered why some people take offense even to something seemingly unoffensive?

Where no harm was meant but there sure was a reaction!

Overreaction

In their overreaction, you decide that you need to be super careful around them.

You pick your words with utmost care so that you don’t get an explosion, that overreaction.

But all of this controlled containment of your natural self leads to a shutting down—you’ tiptoe’ around them, careful not to push their buttons.

And honestly, how does that lead to a more in-depth, more meaningful, and intimate relationship?

Maybe it’s withdrawal. Their response to some situation is a withdrawal into themselves—hiding away in a cave of negative echoes.

You see, we respond to the present out of the formation of our history.

The painful events of our history have bumped and knocked us into drawing up a guidebook of conclusions about life. Some of those conclusions need to be revisited as adults and decided upon if they are truly helpful or not, and if they help us develop meaningful and intimate relationships.

History-based pain

I read this quote the other day from David Riddell.

The more you fear humiliation, the angrier you must get, in your attempts to protect yourself from its history-based pain. David Riddell

Let’s unpack this.

We like to tease each other. It’s normal, and it’s part of play and growing relationships.

But we don’t like to be humiliated. To be shamed and feel small, foolish, or incompetent.

So we protect ourselves from anyone or anything that might trigger those feelings of humiliation. We fear being humiliated.

So we get angry at the injustice of it all. We lash out at the abuser.

But as we do this, a wall is being built—a barrier that stops the flow of intimacy – in-to-me-see.

It’s a history-based pain that keeps getting the touchdown.

Something happened back then that is like a trampoline that even now you still bounce off. It seems so normal and natural for you to respond that way, but it’s not helpful.

Their response is their responsibility.

When someone is overreacting, then it’s important to remember that how they respond is their responsibility.

You cant control them and the way they react to the various stimuli they are going to come across.

We are volitional beings. God has given us the cognitive ability to make choices.

Victor Frankl, a survivor of the extermination camps of holocaust Germany, knew something of our ability to choose how we respond.

Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.  Victor Frankl

Your response to the ‘Prickly Pear.’

Perhaps you know someone who is what I call a ‘Prickly Pear.’

An actual Prickly Pear is a fruit from the Cacti family. It can be eaten and enjoyed but on the outside of the skin are fine prickles or bristles that easily dislodge and can cause skin and eye irritation.

So you handle them with care.

If you want more of a human face to a prickly pear, then meet Gloria.

Source: The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt

If you want to know Gloria and discover her goodness, you need to have loads of patience and learn to ask questions.

Good questions that defuse the walking landmine that they are.

Asking the questions

Questions have a way of opening up lines of inquiry, and if you want to go deep with a Gloria or Glen, then gentle empowering questions need to be asked.

Questions to ask yourself

    1. What do I know about their history that might help explain their reaction?
    2. What gets generated emotionally in me when they react in that way?
    3. Am I taking responsibility for my communication?
    4. Am I needlessly being too flippant with my words?
  1. Questions to ask them 
    1. I’m curious, why did you respond in the way you did?
    2. Could you describe another time when you reacted in that way, and how did that affect your relationships?
    3. When did you first ‘feel’ that feeling of … (eg, being mocked)
    4. What painful experiences have shaped your life in unhelpful ways
History to His Story

As we review the bumps and bruises of our story, we will notice times when we responded in certain ways to life events that have left us with thinking and emotional response habits.

But we are not locked into our past.

We can change, our brains are plastic (malleable), and we have God of infinite creative power that desires to make all things new.

So we now offer up our thinking and emotional response habits to God, asking for questions to unlock the purposes of the heart.

What would Jesus want me to know about this moment in my story and in his-story?

Can Spirit (Holy) help to lubricate the wiring in my brain to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus? Philippians 2:5

I believe they can.

Quotes to consider
  • Check every over-reaction in the present for an echo from the past. Trace it, face it, replace it, or live on in all-out reaction to others. D. Riddell
  • Reacting badly? A trauma in the past causes an over-reaction in the present. Acknowledge and compensate for it in order to carry on. D. Riddell
  • When you next over-react in anxiety, rejection, or anger, try to distinguish between present reality and the echoes of past experiences. D. Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. Fight, flight, or freeze. All can be overreactions to stressful triggers to history-based pain. What tends to be your default response mode?
  2. Can you think of times you overreacted? What history-based pain did that bounce off?
  3. What other questions could be asked to gently probe a person’s overreactions?
Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

Sep 24, 2020
Can you Be Kind to Yourself?
09:30

We are all in a daily grind of struggle, but when you listen for the voices of demand, you can learn to be kind to yourself and others. You can find rest.

This person deserves a  medal.

Sometimes I listen to a person sharing something of their lives, and I think they deserve a medal or some award for what they have been through.

We hand out awards for bravery, sports, business leadership, arts, and other achievements but not for those who have faced the grit and grind of life.

I hear, at a heart level, the failures, successes, regrets, moments of passion, and also moments of sheer exhaustion. Yet they still keep going.

It’s a humbling experience at times to go deep into the struggle of another’s life. There is an invite to say ‘well done.’

The downplay 

But they downplay your sense of amazement. Not so much out of modesty but more so out of an unawareness that what they do is quite amazing.

    • ‘Raising three kids on my own – not that bigger deal.’
    • ‘My wife has had severe depression for 25 years of our 30-year marriage – not that bigger deal.’
    • ‘I’ve had psychotic thoughts for ten years now. Its a struggle but not too bad.’
    • ‘I started going to counseling five years ago for PTSD stuff from sexual abuse as a child. It’s tough, but it’s not that bad.’
    • ‘Other people have it worse off than me.’

I want to say to them, ‘You’re amazing.’

An awareness of not being alone

There is often a pull to self-isolate. To hide away with our struggles. Rugged individualism has an allure to it of ‘I can do this on my own.’

Yet at the full stop point, that place where you run out of resources there is a need to reach out and seek help.

‘I can’t do this on my own.’

Only in the movies does the self-made superhero exist.

Most of all, we need others who say that they are with us.

They may not be able to magically solve the problem or heal the hurt, but they can offer to wipe away the tears of exhaustion.

They are there to be there for that moment.

The gift of being kind

Can you be kind to yourself?

Can you, for a moment, look at the grit and grind of your life and rest yourself in a bath of kindness?

Perhaps there is a little voice inside you that is saying you’re not enough. That you don’t measure up. You’re a failure, and you need to try harder.

Maybe you have a list of measurements that you have to achieve to feel you’re doing ok.

It could be spiritual exercises of having a daily quiet time, reading the Bible, praying for a certain amount of minutes, attending these church events, giving a certain amount of money.

Can you be kind to yourself and drop these for a moment.

No one is going to jump on you and kick you off God’s team. If you have critical people like that in your life, then perhaps it’s time to find a healthier group of people to be friends with.

The kindness of rest

For six days, this creative team worked and built. It was truly unique what they created. Mountains and microbes. Stars and snails. A man and a mouse.

What a burst of energy it must have been. Furious love exploding out everywhere.

Then on the seventh day, they had a rest. Phew.

A deep rest of sitting with each other and soaking in the kindness of it all. They were kind to each other, themselves.

We still have that opportunity of entering kindness and rest.

Being kind to ourselves is an invite to rest with them (God) because we accept our clay bound human limitations.

To be kind to ourselves is to know that there is a much larger story going on, that we are part of it, and that God, with their creative artistic flair, will bring all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

Can you rest yourself in that?

Speaking to the critic 

Yet, there is still that little critic inside that whispers and shouts a list of expectations.

    • Do this
    • Do that
    • Try harder
    • You’re not good enough
    • You don’t measure up
    • You should be doing this
    • Why can’t you be like them

There’s no carrot, only a stick that drives the donkey of your life.

Please, be kind and stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself.

Start to notice the inner voice of the critic and see the influence it has over you. Where did that voice come from? Who was that slave driver?

It may be time for you to learn how to work out of your rest.

The wind

Yesterday I had a typically busy day outside, but I stopped for a moment.

I noticed that there was a particular wildness in the wind and so I ceased working for a few minutes and let the genesis energy of the wind flow around my face and through my lungs.

I was kind to myself and rested.

It was a ‘No’ to the ‘shoulds’ and an embracing of the ‘coulds.’

There were options. I could keep on working, working, working, or I could, for the next few moments, become mindfully aware of the presence of God in the wind around me.

I was kind to myself and I rested.

You may be working so hard in life that I can hardly rest with you. Please, be kind to yourself and take a rest.

Quotes to consider
  •  Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Socrates
  • In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds. John of the Cross
  • Our anguish plays out in our distorted images of our selves, our self-centered compulsions, our need to control, and our illusions about what makes us feel we are accepted or important. In all of this, grace is at the heart of deep change. Roger Heuser
  • When you compare yourself with others, you have no idea what challenges they are facing. Rob Bell
Questions to answer
  1. Are you kind to yourself?
  2. Do you downplay your struggle to yourself?
  3. What would it be like to be fully at rest?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Anthony Duran on Unsplash

 
Sep 17, 2020
When There are More Questions than Answers
10:03

Life can hand us a bunch of questions with few answers. But there is something inviting in a question, and so we explore a road less travelled.

When Bob climbed into the passenger seat next to me, I could see that something was wrong. He wasn’t his normal cheery self. It was like a question had gripped his thinking.

Have you ever had that experience? Something has happened in your life, and with a sense of shock, you are consumed with trying to understand it.

I have many questions.

If you have lived for a few years, you will most likely have a closet full of questions.

Its that place where you store away those questions that haven’t been answered yet.

Or maybe they have been answered, but not to your full satisfaction.

I’m talking questions of the heart.

Perhaps the answer given was glib.

A nice, pretty sterilized bandaid used to avoid exposure to the rawness of the pain.

Few of us genuinely want to hear the rawness of another’s pain. We don’t even want to go near our own.

I have few answers

The older I get, I find that I have many questions and few answers.

Recently I have been listening, via Daily Audio Bible, to Job and Ecclesiastes.

Now here are a couple of books that inspire joy and overflowing positivity!

Job sits in torn clothes and a pit of ashes. His world has been thrown upside down and shaken to its core.

But why? He questions everything, especially God. His so-called friends question him and tell him their less than helpful answers.

The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be stuck in a well of hopelessness.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”    says the Teacher.“Utterly meaningless!    Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2

How about that as a sales pitch for success!

I have a God that questions my questions

One of the delights of the book of Job is how God responds to Job and his friends.

Job asks questions. God responds with questions.

The questions God asked Job to answer were of a nature that no man could answer, put in a box and say ‘There I have the answer’.

I have some questions for you,    and I want some straight answers.Where were you when I created the earth?    Tell me, since you know so much!Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that!    Who came up with the blueprints and measurements?How was its foundation poured,    and who set the cornerstone,While the morning stars sang in chorus    and all the angels shouted praise? Job 38

Job is cognitively invited to see his questions in the context of something bigger than himself.

There is a larger story going on, and we are invited to be part of it.

You don’t have to have the answers to gain entry.

Actually, those with the questions are more likely to hear the bigger God questions that truly matter, and that shape and form one’s wholeness.

 The fire scorched adult you are becoming.

Every one of us will, at some stage, go through a Job experience. It might not be as dramatic as Jobs with loss of family, wealth, and health, but we will all taste the ashes of loss.

It could be the betrayal in a marriage or the death of a friend. The loss of a job or a crippling car accident. Cancer eating your body and fire burning your house.

There’s a mill, a grindstone, a storm, and a place of fire that we all pass through—a place where everything seems meaningless and hopeless.

It’s a time where you’re invited to reassess all that you have believed in.

    • Is God good?
    • Am I loved?
    • Do I have worth?
    • Is it ok to change some of my beliefs?

Perhaps the place that gave you the answers as a child no longer provides the answers for the fire scorched adult you are becoming.

Trust is built on cognitive assessments.

I once was pastorally coaching a man with a severe addiction problem. His wife had had enough and had told him the marriage was over.

He was in the fire of change, and he didn’t like the taste.

He asked what he should do.  So we talked about her past and how she had suffered abuse and needed a deep sense of security. The facts were that he was untrustworthy and an abuser of her trust.

We had to give her, via his observed behaviors, new factual evidence that he was doing things differently.

So he became religious, in a good sense, of creating new habits. He did it for himself first. The change was for his own sake, and that if it restored his marriage, then that would be a bonus.

He questioned his beliefs and didn’t like the answers. We rebuilt his life, and the marriage was restored.

Spiritual formation and a good question

I want to listen to people with questions. I probably don’t have the answers, but the joy is to see that they are actually questioning things.

To just accept everything and go along in a trance of what others tell you shows little desire for growth or depth. That power, contained in a good storm or fire, has left no maturing mark.

Spiritual formation happens at that crossroads where there is a question.

Do I explore the road less traveled, or do I take the familiar, but old, and less than satisfactory route?

We need to, as Parker Palmer would say ‘hear each other into deeper speech’. 

Bob, can I ask you something?

 

Mental health is ... exploring the questions for the questions that are underneathCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech.” Parker J. Palmer.
  • When you speak to me about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved: you want to be seen and heard, to have your truth acknowledged and honored. Parker J. Palmer. 
  • Good work is relational, and its outcomes depend on what we are able to evoke from each other. Parker J. Palmer 
  • It is usually most helpful to ask questions that are more about the person than about the problem. Parker J. Palmer 
  • There are questions which illuminate, and there are those that destroy. We should ask the first kind. Isaac Isador Rabi.
Questions to answer
  1. Do you have a closet full of questions? Ones that you have subconsciously stored away but now and then make their unwelcome appearance? What are those questions?
  2. Under one question, there may well be other questions. What is the question under the question that simply needs acknowledgment at being there?
  3.   What shapes us more. Our questions or our answers?
Further reading

By Barry Pearman

Photo by xandtor on Unsplash

Sep 10, 2020
Can you Measure Spiritual Growth and Formation?
13:23

In our spiritual life, we want to know if we are making progress, but much of growth and formation is intangible, so we have to look deeper than a mere measurement.

It wasn’t the answer I was expecting, but when we dug a little deeper, I could see the wisdom.

I was talking with a counselor, and I asked him how do we know if we are growing spiritually or not? There isn’t any objective measuring tool where we can say we have moved 5 points ahead or back. That would really open us up to feelings of pride or failure.

What he said was along the lines of this.

How well are you relating to those closest to you?

He conjectured that if we were growing spiritually, then this would be seen in how we relate to others.

We could pull this apart because relationships are a two-way street.  Some people are plain dangerous to be open and intimate with. They will take advantage, abuse, and possibly try to squash your faith. We all have a journey to take.

But I could see where he was coming from.

He was looking at how the three members of Trinity loved and served each other. A kind of self-giving self-sacrificial love between each of them where each tries to outdo the other in overflowing love.

‘I’m going to love you more’ ‘No, I’m going to love you more.’

Spiritual growth and formation, I believe, is a movement to that kind of intimacy and love.

If those closest to me, those who see me at my best and my worst, can say that there is a sense of an overflowing faith, hope, and love coming from me, then maybe something of that perichoresis dance has filtered into my movement.

Perichoresis (from Greek: περιχώρησις perikhōrēsis, “rotation”) is a term referring to the relationship of the three persons of the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to one another. Perichoresis 

Tic on a dog

Relationships are tricky.

We want to give the very best to the other, but we also want and need from others certain things such as love and respect.

None of us love with perfection.

We can be like, as Dr. Larry Crabb says, two ticks with no dog.

A marriage bound together by commitments to exploit the other for filling one’s own needs (and I fear that most marriages are built on such a basis) can legitimately be described as a “tic on a dog” relationship.Just as a hungry tic clamps on to a nourishing host in anticipation of a meal, so each partner unites with the other in the expectation of finding what his or her personal nature demands.The rather frustrating dilemma, of course, is that in such a marriage there are two tics and no dog!Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder

You’re not the dog for them to be a tic to.

For much of my life, I have considered that my spiritual life was measured by what I do.

Examples

    • Personal devotional life – reading the Bible, prayer, scripture memorization, meditation
    • Church attendance and serving
    • Giving to the poor and needy

All good activities to do, but it feels more like a religion of doing than a relationship of being.

Any step away from these, and you’re seen as backsliding and that you need to repent and try harder!

So often, it can feel like you’re the dog and others – individuals and organizations are the tic sucking the life out of you. They have a wonderful plan for your life that seems to subtly also include sucking the life out of you.

As far as it depends on you

I have limits as to how much love I can give to others. This old dog has only so much blood and life from which others can draw life from.

Paul, in a little section of the letter to the Romans, he talks about living with difficult people.

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18

In these few words, he says that it’s not always going to be possible to live at peace with everyone. That you can only do so much and that you have limits in your capability.

You won’t be able to meet everyone’s needs. You may know this logically, but it’s your heart that needs to hear it.

When I sense the demand of a tic, the desire to meet a need that was never mine to meet, then I gently point them to an overflowing well of nourishment.

Follow me and be formed.

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.Matthew 4:18-20

Here were some tics, people much like ourselves with hungry, needy hearts. They had a desire for long deep draughts of love and respect.

Jesus comes, shows love and respect for them by speaking in the context of fishing. They drop their nets and follow.

They have found the well from which to draw from.

Formation becomes natural as they model themselves off ‘the Christ’.

Spiritual growth and formation now

I would love to be able to hang out with Jesus, much like those early fishermen, tax collectors, and other waywards.

I know it would probably wreck my life and possibly those around me. Throw everything into even further confusion and then have it settle into something new. Jesus has a habit of doing it that way.

How would I measure spiritual growth and development?

I like the idea of relationality has its merits. That is where God does their finest work.

I would also like to know if there is a growing fruitfulness in your life. At a relational level, that there is some evidence of the fruit of the Spirit

Things like affection for others,exuberance about life,serenity.

A willingness to stick with things,a sense of compassion in the heart,and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.

An involvement in loyal commitments,not needing to force our way in life,an ability to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Galatians 5:22-24

Maybe I would also like to know if there is a growing sense of grace towards yourself and others.

All of this is highly subjective and can’t be measured. Only God knows the heart, and let’s leave it at that.

 

Mental health is ... having a spiritual formation journey that grows and develops. It overflows and touches the lives of others with faith, hope, and love.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Being is more important than doing, the heart is more important than the mind, and caring together is better than caring alone. Henri Nouwen
  • The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
  • Spiritual growth begins with the easily overlooked disciplines of attentiveness and surrender. David Benner
Questions to answer
  1. How would you measure one’s spiritual formation?
  2. What relational qualities would you want Jesus to mentor you in?
  3. Jesus used the language and context of fishing to Peter and his brothers. They were fishermen. What language and context would Jesus use with you if he walked up to you today?
Further reading

Sharpening: A Spiritual Habit for Better Mental Health

Your Brain Needs to Rest Beside Still Waters

Mental Health Grows Through Little By Little Dance Steps

Barry Pearman

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

Sep 02, 2020
Touching the Isolated and Touch-Deprived
09:58

Social isolation lockdown comes with touch-deprivation and highlights the need we all have of touch, but perhaps we can reach out and hold each other safely.

She walked up and gave me the biggest hug. Her husband shook my hand.

I’m missing touch. Are you?

I know some people who are huggy people and love to have big open arms that embrace others. It feels like you are being swallowed up by them.

Whereas others don’t like the physical touch.

But I wonder what will the world be like once this COVID19 crisis is over.

Questions bubble in the brain.

    1. Will we be more paranoid about physical touch?
    2. Could the habits of social distancing continue as matter of course?
    3. Will the fear of physical touch feed into an even greater fear of being open and vulnerable on a soul level with others?
We need to touch

Something happens when we touch. It’s a physical awareness that we’re not alone.

There is pressure on the nerve endings of your skin. Someone has moved from their existence into yours. You are not alone.

And it’s not just the COVID crisis that’s changing our touch habits. It could be the device your reading this post on.

Tiffany Field is a researcher of touch at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. She traveled to different airports in Florida to watch people interacting.

She made a shocking discovery: Nobody was touching each other. Everyone was on their phone.

Read an article about her research here. Why Physical Touch Matters for Your Well-Being

Entering the world of the unclean

Everyone passed him by. Nobody stopped to talk, touch, or even have eye contact.

It felt like he wasn’t there, even though he certainly was.

He thought of getting a little bell and ring it in time with the syrup worship songs they sang.

Perhaps he needed to sing ‘Unclean, unclean’ in this place of worship.

It was a kind of social isolation he knew. No one knew how to handle him. He was on the outside.

You see, he could no longer play the cosmetic mask games they were playing. He hurt on the inside, and it flowed outwards. There was no ability to contain his depression and make out like everything was ok.

He needed presence.

That was until a little old lady of 92 came and sat next to him, held his hand, and told him without words that he wasn’t alone. Her old wrinkled and crinkled hands entwined for a good half hour.

He was in love.

A God Hug

Back in 2009, I wrote my final essay for my Bachelor of Applied Theology.

My essay was entitled The Dehumanising Effects of Sexual Abuse.

In my research, I came across the work of theologian Miroslav Volv.

Volv writes

On the cross the circle of self-giving and mutually indwelling divine persons opens up for the enemy; in the agony of the passion the movement stops for a brief moment and a fissure appears so that sinful humanity can join in.

We, the others – we the enemies – are embraced by the divine persons who love us with the same love with which they love each other and therefore make space for us within their own eternal embrace.

An embrace involves always a double movement of opening and closing. I open my arms to create space in myself for the other. The open arms are a sign of discontent at being myself only and of desire to include the other.

They are an invitation to the others to come in and feel at home with me, to belong to me. In an embrace I also close my arms around the others – not tightly, so as to crush and assimilate them forcefully into myself, for that would not be an embrace but a concealed power-act of exclusion; but gently, so as to tell them that I do not want to be without them in their otherness.

I want them in their openness. I want them to remain independent and true to their genuine selves, to maintain their identity and as such become part of me so that they can enrich me with what they have and I do not’. Miroslav Volv

To the isolated and touch-deprived

Actually there wasn’t a 92-year-old lady, and that was the day he left the church that had deluded him.

Instead, he went to the others on the street. He found others in the gutter, and they shared war stories.

They all had wounds and bruises. Some of which had turned into scars.

For some, they were still bleeding, and hugs were mingled with the anger and the hurt of a fresh wound.

Then there were others for whom the wound had turned into a scar.

There was a confidence in them of a well-walked traveler. They had walked the walk, and they could silent the talk.

I have this thing about being a preacher who reveals things about herself,and it’s that I always try to preach from my scars and not my wounds.So, talking about depression is not in any way, a wound for me.Nadia Bolz-Weber

Please, be that 92-year-old woman or man who knows how to hold someone else’s hand, soul, life safely. Let them speak their wounds and see the scars take shape. It’s a beautiful thing.

You may just look a lot like Jesus.

 

Mental Health is ... learning to give and receive touch. In an ever-increasing isolated world, we all need to learn how to touch wellCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Remember that touch-hungry children become touch-hungry adolescents. Don’t miss the opportunity to provide the remedy, before they start looking to others. D. Riddell
  • Hug your loved one soon. Love and affection do not truly exist until they are given expression, and many suffer from ‘touch hunger’. D. Riddell
  • I think not touching a child for decades at a time is a form of injury.  I think withholding any expression of love until a young boy is a grown man is a form of emotional violence.  And I believe that the violence men level against themselves and others is bred from just such circumstances. Terrence Real
  • Spiritual friends see a facet of Christ in us and bring it out as no one else can. And they delight to do so. When they see what is unique about us, it causes them great delight; and then, giving away to the powers of daring imagination, they envision what we could become. The vision excites them – with Paul, they see us where we are and feel the pains of labor till Christ is formed in us (Gal. 4:19). Larry Crabb. The Safest Place on Earth, 172
Questions to answer
  1. What do you think might be the long term effects of social isolation?
  2. How has touch played a role in your life?
  3. Have you been injured in some way by lack of touch?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Elia Pellegrini on Unsplash

Aug 27, 2020
Your Faith has Made you Unwell
11:55

We can become so loaded down with religion that our faith makes us unwell but Jesus can make us well when we reach out for the fringe.

They were loaded down.

You couldn’t see it, but as you listened you could hear and feel it.

It was a load of religious shame, guilt, questions, and general confusion.

    • Did I do something bad and God is punishing me with a mental illness?
    • I’ve prayed and prayed but God hasn’t answered. I don’t have enough faith.
    • The pastor says there is sin in my life.
    • I did what the church elders told me to do and now I’m in an abusive relationship
    • I keep going to church but nobody talks to me. It’s like I’m not meeting some standard

Perhaps you could add to this list.

I’ve heard many statements like those above. They all fill me with a sense of both sadness and anger that we continue to shoot our wounded and poison our little ones.

Your faith has made you well

Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” 

Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”

And instantly the woman was made well.Matthew 9:20-22  Mark 5:25-34

So we, who want the prescription to health and wellness, look to the doctors’ notes and see that it was ‘her faith’ that made her well.

We conclude that we need more faith so we try harder. We read more, give more, pray more. It seems like it’s all about more, more, more.

We ask questions such as

    • What happened to this woman?
    • Can we replicate it into our situation?
    • What is the secret?

I don’t know what exactly happened but something miraculous took place that will confound and frustrate the mechanic and the chessplayer in all of us.

What we can say is that her pistis (faith in greek) – belief, trust, confidence contributed in some way to her healing and being made whole.

The woman’s faith

We know very little about this woman other than what this story tells us. We do know that she was of part a ‘faith’ and that she had a personal faith.

Part of a Faith

We are all part of ‘a faith’.

It could be the Christian faith but it also could be Muslim, Buddist, etc.

A ‘faith’ is a collective of people that believe certain things and group themselves around these beliefs. Breaking it down further it could be a denomination, a church grouping, a small group.

For the purpose of this post, let’s assume this woman was part of the Jewish faith tradition. Her understanding of what God was like had been shaped by years and years of teaching and training.

It was a faith that had rules around ritual cleanliness, bleeding.  She would have known the rules. ‘Don’t touch the Rabbi (Jesus) or you’ll make him unclean’.

But she was also engaging with an emerging and new faith.

The Jesus Way was now the Faith expression that had a pull on her life. She had been watching Jesus. Learning from him, and feeding off his every word and action.

Personal Faith

Then there is your own personal faith. Your own set of beliefs and convictions. What you put your trust and confidence in.

We are shaped and molded, mostly in early childhood years, by parents and other groupings such as the faith traditions you are exposed to.

However, something was changing in this woman’s life I believe. Her personal faith was evolving and changing as she encountered Jesus.

His loving, caring, and compassionate responses to the outsider invited her to a place where she decided that maybe the merest touch of his cloak might change her life.

It did.

The faith that makes you unwell

I once talked with a man who wanted to challenge me with his religious rule-keeping. Everything was black and white for him.

Instead, I suggested we talk about the stories of Jesus.

‘I don’t want to talk about Jesus stories’ was his response.

I believe his faith was making him unwell.

In his strong rule-bound religious life there was little room for love and grace. The problem was that he was passing on this toxicity to others. Vulnerable others.

At the extreme level of spiritual abuse, we have the cults where it’s all about mind control, obey the leader, follow the rules. But sadly I know churches where similar abuses happen.

It’s subtle, but it’s there.

Follow the rules and behaviors of the group or you’re out.

All those messages, spoken and unspoken get sown into the soul.

They can cripple a person’s faith.

Touching the hem that makes you well

It was a leap of faith for this woman to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak. It was faith reaching for the fringe.

When you are questioning your faith tradition and all the beliefs and convictions you have held dear, there comes a moment of decision.

Will I stay within the confines of what is familiar and known or will I reach out and take a risk.

The fringe is always there for you to reach out and touch.

Would the real Jesus stand up

I want to meet Jesus.

Not the Jesus of religious conformity, but the Jesus who went to the edges of life. The Jesus that will rattle the religious rules out of me.

He’s the one who turned water into wine. The God who danced on the water and ate with the outsider.

That’s the Jesus we all need to encounter and be on the fringe with.

As I listen to people I sense the urge to point them to the real Jesus. To tell them Jesus stories and invite them to touch the fringe. It’s risky, dangerous but oh so good.

C.S. Lewis perfectly portrays Jesus as the Lion Aslan to some children.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

 

Mental health is ... having a growing, changing, evolving experience of faith as we touch the hem of Jesus garmentCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • There are others who know about this miracle birthThe humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worthFor it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comesBut to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums.Bruce Cockburn Cry of a Tiny Babe
  • Faith is the willingness not to be certain and still to say ‘You know what it’s ok, I can live with it, it’s allright, it is what it is’. Faith is not the opposite of doubt. Faith is the oppostite of certitude. Where you don’t need to be certain to be happy. If you can’t go there you’ll never be happy because you’ll never get logical certitude. If you’re waiting for 100% certitude you’re never going to happy. Richard Rohr. Podcast: Trust is a Rock You Can Build Upon
  • Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Abraham Joshua Heschel 

Questions to consider

  1. How has your faith developed and changed over time?
  2. What is it like to leave behind some of the old ‘faith’ conclusions you have made to embrace new ones?
  3. What does being ‘well’ look like for you?
  4. What would change in you if you touched the fringe or hem of Jesus’ cloak?
Further reading

Aug 20, 2020
Picking Up The Broken Pieces
14:39

It was tasting the dust of devastation. The broken pieces. But those fragments can be brought together, and so we quietly form a new mosaic

Broken pieces. That’s all that was left behind.

It was a moment that captured the world’s attention.

A massive explosion of ammonium nitrate brought a city to be a pile of rubble.

But amidst the dust 79-year-old May Abboud Melki, played Auld Lang Syne on her piano in her broken apartment.

Playing in her pain.

She then went on to play Arabic hymns, which caused those around her to gather around and start worshiping.

“To see her lean into her faith, lean into God was something that was a strong message to her community and our family immediately”May-Lee Melki –  granddaughter.

Most of us will never have to face the type of devastation caused by such an explosion. But it could be an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, bush-fire that brings us to a place of picking up the pieces.

As you read this tap into the emotions of loss.

Something has swept through your life and now it’s like everything has been turned upside down, shaken around, and thrown to the four corners of the universe.

You are left with a few fragments from which to rebuild.

Broken pieces

As part of my devotional life, I find it helpful to meditate on scripture. One of the ways I do this is through the ancient art of Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina asks the listener to be quiet and listen to a passage of scripture and allow God to speak to you personally through this.

I use a podcast called Daily Lectio Divina. 

One of the readings this week was about the feeding of the 5000 by Jesus. The miraculous turning of a few loaves of bread and some fish into a banquet for the multitude.

At the very end of the story is the mention of the cleanup crew.

and they took up what was leftover of the broken pieces. Matthew 14:20

I could see all those people fanning out and collecting the scraps. There would be joy, amazement, and songs of thankfulness.

But I wanted to know what they did with all those pieces of fish and bread.

Did they get creative and make some sort of fish cake? They didn’t have freezers to store it for later use so perhaps they gave it away.

I think that’s what they probably did.

As they traveled along, following Jesus, they told the story and shared the bread and fish. They, and others feasted on the leftovers, the broken pieces.

We like nice stories

It’s a nice Jesus story, isn’t it. Everyone is happy. Full stomachs and the needs of the heart met. We like it like that, don’t we.

For Jesus, there were thousands of happy people following him. Ministerial success! He was now the leader of a mega-church!

Yet, a few years later, after walking a very narrow path of crushing discipleship only a few friends remained.

I wonder sometimes how long Jesus would last in our modern PC church world.

Political Correctness and Pastoral Correctness might just see him excommunicated while the good people continue to sing him their happy songs.

Your broken pieces

Life is full of broken pieces. Leftovers after a storm of life.

The marriage fails, a child dies, cancer rages through the body. You’re made redundant after years of faithful service. No longer needed. A pandemic sweeps through your village.

You sit and look at all the shards of debris and grandma moves to the piano.

She’s been there before.

She knows the grit and grind of what life is actually all about. There is a time to lament and mourn and there is a time to pick up the pieces.

What prompted the nudge?

As I pondered over the passage I wondered why Spirit (Holy) gave Matthew the nudge to write this little facet of the story down.

Perhaps God wanted us to know how amazing the miracle was in that there was so much leftover.

Or might it be that God wanted us to know that there was a divine interest in the broken pieces? Those little things that most would discard as being worthless. The scraps of our lives.

Your broken pieces, those things that might seem as leftovers and trash to most, may just have a purpose as you rebuild out of the devastation.

The pieces of a jigsaw puzzle might come together and form a new mosaic.

A picture of new beauty.

Mosaic of beauty

Years ago I had the opportunity to visit the ancient city of Ephesus.

It was a city of ruins, but it was also a city where I knew the apostle Paul had walked and talked.

As we walked down the streets our guide called us over to the sidewalk.

He then took his water bottle out and squirted some water onto the pavement. With the dust washed off a beautiful mosaic appeared.

Ancient colors burst out from under the dirt and washed us with delight.

Broken pieces, of various colors, all arranged into a pattern.

Someone, thousands of years before, had collected some broken pieces and with Spirit-led, creative celebration, made art for us to enjoy.

Your gift is …

As you have read this you may well have been nudged about the broken pieces in your life. I hope so.

What is the invite God is whispering to you?

Can you pick up a few broken pieces and form them into a mosaic that might help you make sense of it all.

Do it slowly with a sense that this artwork can take as long as it needs to take.

There is no rush or demand to perform to anyone, including yourself.

Your broken piece artwork may be the gift another person is needing to savor off in their broken world experience.

The challenge is whether you are willing to look at your broken pieces, own them and their pain, and then invite the Jesus of miracles to come and co-create a new mosaic.

 

Mental Health is ... acknowledging the broken pieces in our lives and then, with Spirit-led creative design, join them together as a gift to yourself and others.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Can my world ever be rebuilt? Do I have any value? Can I be useful again? Is there life after failure? My answer is yes. That is what grace is all about. A marvelous, forgiving, healing grace says that all things can be new. Gordon MacDonald
  • Tell Moses, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and St. Paul that the broken-world experience is an addendum, an add-on, to life. Tell them that pressure, failure, and embarrassment are not part of the course of human development and maturation. They simply won’t agree. They will say that sorrow, pain, and stress are the “graduate school” of godly character and capacity if people are willing to enroll. The problem, they may suggest, is that this school has too many no-shows and dropouts. Gordon MacDonald
  • In pain, failure, and brokenness, God does His finest work in the lives of people. Gordon MacDonald
  • If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever form.—Henri Nouwen 
  • Brokenness is a condition, one that is always there, inside, beneath the surface, carefully hidden for as long as we can keep a facade in place. We live in brokenness. We just don’t always see it, either in ourselves or in others. Larry Crabb
  • A central task of community is to create a place that is safe enough for the walls to be torn down, safe enough for each of us to own, and reveal our brokenness. Larry Crabb
Questions to answer
  1. Where have you had a broken world experience?
  2. There is a time for everything. How much time do we allow ourselves or give permission to ourselves to own the fact that we have broken pieces?
  3. What would be an example in your life where a few broken pieces have come together to form a mosaic of beauty?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Sabine van Straaten on Unsplash

Aug 13, 2020
Is COVID-19 An Invitation To Check Our Wisdom?
09:34

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage through our lives, but perhaps simple wisdom could save the world. The most important thing is people.

In January, I could see that it was going to be war. It was going to be a battle for our lives.

This was the attitude I had to have about the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the enemy was unseen to the naked eye.

Perhaps my realization was strengthened by having just read a biography of Sir Winston Churchill (The Character and Greatness of Winston Churchill: Hero in a Time of Crisis by Stephen Mansfield). Still, I knew that the world was about to experience a war that would test everything and everyone.

Some questions came to mind.

  • Would leaders lead with humility and resolve?
  • Would people listen to their leaders?
  • What political structures will be revealed as flawed?
  • Which leaders would prioritize dollars, politics, and the economy before the health of people?
  • Will we love our neighbor as we love ourselves?
  • Who will be wise but quickly forgotten?
  • Who will be unwise and be remembered forever?

You can answer those questions yourself.

The poverty of wisdom in COVID-19

Today I read these lines from musician Bruce Cockburn.

Every day in the paperyou can watch the numbers riseNo such event can overtake us here,we’re much too wise.Radium Rain – Bruce Cockburn

I thought, ‘Wow, this so describes our times’.

Numbers of deaths on the increase, but still some people think that they’re ‘much too wise’ to be vulnerable.

I watched a protest march on T.V. the other night. Thousands of people angry about losing some of their rights.

They were being forced, by law, to wear masks in public places. It seems that they considered themselves ‘much too wise’.

By the way, ‘Radium Rain‘ was written by Bruce a few days after the Cheynoble explosion back in 1986, and he was pointing out to the west the foolishness of thinking that a Chernobyl event could never happen in their backyard.

There is an arrogance in the heart that demands personal rights without considering the responsibilities of being human in a community with others.

The kindness of a mask 

A self-centered view of life says that the mask is to prevent contracting the virus from other people.

It’s all about me—an addiction to the self.

Incurvatus in se’ – turned/curved inward on oneself.

Whereas a community-centered approach sees things differently

A community-centered view of life says that the mask might prevent others from contracting the virus if I unknowingly have it.

It’s about others. Compassion and thoughtfulness. Care and wisdom.

So we wash our hands, we use hand gel, we keep our distance, and we wear a mask because we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We lead by example.

Being a wise leader

You are a leader.

One of my all-time favorite Bible stories is the short story of a poor but wise man that saved a small city.

I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me:

There was once a small city with only a few people in it.

And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it, and built huge siegeworks against it.

Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.

But nobody remembered that poor man. 

So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” Ecclesiastes 9:14-16

Wherever you live, you are part of a small town. It could be as small as the group of people you live with—your family, husband, wife, flatmates.

Small as a tight community.

That’s where we start to be leaders and exhibit wisdom.

It starts in small places where we have personal control.

You, in your small town, have the power to make the difference. Leadership is influence, so you lead by example.

He Tangata.

We have a Maori proverb here in New Zealand.

He aha te mea nui?He tangata.He tangata.He tangata.

What is the most important thing?It is people,it is people,it is people.

Perhaps COVID-19 is a huge wakeup call to reassess our wisdom.

We think we are gods with our 21st-century modern technology and knowledge, yet we are mere dust.

If you want to beat COVID-19 you need to ask yourself this question ‘What is the most important thing?’ and I hope you say it is people, it is people, it is people.

It is your neighbor, your friend, your loved ones. You wear a mask for them.

 

Mental Health is ... knowing that the most important thing in the world is people.  He tangata. He tangata. He tangata.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • If you imagine you are better, holier, higher, more important to God than others, it is a very short step to justified arrogance or violence toward those others. Richard Rohr
  • Any spirituality that does not lead from a self- centered existence to an other-centered mode of existence is bankrupt. Brennan Manning
  • The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer 
Questions to answer
  1. Do you think the world as a whole sees themselves as ‘much too wise’?
  2. What is happens when we have an attitude of pride and arrogance?
  3. Who are the people, think the small town, you can lead by example?
Further reading

Photo by Pille-Riin Priske on Unsplash

Barry Pearman

Aug 09, 2020
There’s a Gum Tree Shadow Hanging Over Me
11:45

We can live warped lives because of a shadow hanging over us, but that shadow can be removed if we face what’s causing the shadow and allow the light to flood in.

Have you ever walked in a shadow?

Of course you have, but you probably didn’t take much notice of it. We do it all the time.

What about filtered light? Light that has been defused and filtered as it has passed through clouds. Again yes.

We don’t notice it because we are used to it. It’s commonplace and the norm.

Taking this metaphor a little further, we all live with a certain amount of shadows affecting our lives. What I am talking about are the shadows from the past.

Shadows

She is a grown adult woman, but she can still hear the voice of her father berating her.

What about the man who never knew the fullness of a mother’s love, now the shadow invites him online.

They and we grow used to the ambiance of the diffused light. It’s all we have ever known. Sure, at times, we get a glimpse of sunlight, of something different, but it’s so different that we don’t know what to do with it.

We scurry back into the shadow. It’s safe. Normal and familiar.

The Beetles sang ‘There’s a shadow hanging over me’ and the rock-solid belief in the power of ‘yesterday’.

Plant in full light

At the moment, I am pruning fruit trees. One of the trees I am pruning is an apple tree, but it’s on a lean. Not from the wind, or from being hit by some object, but because it’s hungry for light.

Right above the tree, hang the branches of a large gumtree.

Barry having dangerous fun!

This larger tree casts its shadow over the apple, and the tree compensates to seek out the light.

I really should cut the gum tree down. It would be quite a job, and to cut it down from the base would cause it to crash on the apple tree and destroy it.

I would need to get a cherry picker and go up into the tree and cut it down section by section.

I’ve done this sort of thing before. It’s kind of dangerous but so rewarding when you get to see the results of more light flooding into the garden.

Turning to see

The cause of the problem shadow will only be seen when we look at what is causing the shadow.

I can look at the apple tree all day long and not solve the problem. It’s only when I turn my gaze and see what might be shadowing it will I come to an understanding.

When we come to experience the full light, when we turn and see that which has its shadow on us, it can be like a gum tree has landed on us. For some of us, that’s what is needed.

A deeply religious man, Saul, was one of those who had a light shattering moment.

All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.

He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”

He said, “Who are you, Master?”

“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”

 His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing. Acts 9:1-9

Saul thought he had been walking in the light.

That he had been doing what God would have wanted him to do, yet he was in the darkest of shadows.

The shadow of religiosity. Black and white, rules, and regulations, religion, and self-righteousness.

What casts its shadow on you?

This is an important work. Examing the shadows that are still haunting over you today.

We all have them, and it requires a turning and looking up and back. What is casting that shadow?

Is it the shadows of others gone long before? Generational shadows passed down from generation to generation.

Maybe it was a parent, family member that hurt you. They may not even be aware of the infraction.

Children are excellent recorders of their experiences but poor interpreters. David Riddell

Perhaps its a shadow of something you have done, and you feel shame, guilt, grief, and loss.

You’ve been warped by the shadow. You are stretching and seeking the light, but the shadow remains.

Isn’t it time to make things new?

Making all things new

I believe God is on a love mission where they want to make all things new.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

Paul found this newness. A gumtree had to fall on him to make him wake up to God’s presence, but for some of us, that is what’s needed.

Better still to cut the gum tree down branch by branch. To slowly dissect the object casting the shadow and allow the light to flood in.

Where to from here

1. Ask God to reveal what is casting a shadow.Jesus said these words about Spirit (Holy).

The Spirit shows what is true and will come and guide you into the full truth. The Spirit doesn’t speak on his own. He will tell you only what he has heard from me, and he will let you know what is going to happen. John 16:13

2. Own the shadow

It’s a shadow that’s on you, so you need to take responsibility for it. Avoidance won’t shift the shadow.

3. Ask God for help in removing what is causing the shadow

Imagine that huge gumtree and the enormity of the problem. You cant do it by yourself. We need someone larger and greater than ourselves.

Supernatural goals need supernatural resources. Dr. Larry Crabb

4. Find others to help you dismantle the tree piece by piece. 

This will most likely be a journey of a lifetime. Removing branches one at a time. Safely and securely allowing the new light to flood in. Find someone to help.

5. Look for the new light and enjoy its warmth. 

As each small limb falls, there is a new light that dances around your life. You can grow straight, produce new fruit, and be enjoyed by others. You are one that has done the work and is now full of fruit.

 

We all have shadows that limit the light reaching us. Surely we can pray and ask God to help remove the object that is a full awareness of their presence.

 

Mental health is ... understanding the shadows we are living under and then beginning the process of removing the branches that hide the lightCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin
  • Those who do not turn to face their pain are prone to impose it. Terrence Real
  • Redeemed pain is more impressive to me than removed pain Phillip Yancey.
Questions to answer
  1. What has been a ‘shadow’ that has seemingly clung on to you?
  2. What would it be like to have some of those shadows removed and have more light enter your life?
  3. Are their experiences in your life that you might have recorded quite well but interpreted poorly? What would Spirit (Holy) want you to know as truth? Are you open to another interpretation?

Barry Pearman

Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

 
Jul 30, 2020
The Cup. Paying Attention To What Fills and Drains
10:37

We are like a cup in which energy both fills and drains. But we can grow by paying attention to the cup and understanding the fillers and the drainers.

It was always a challenge to get them to care for themselves. They were always giving out to others, and I could see that life was being sucked out of them.

I explained that you can’t give out of an empty cup, but self-sacrifice and martyrdom had been drummed into them from childhood. They remembered that Sunday School song – J.O.Y. Jesus first, Yourself last,  and Others in between sung to the merry little tune of Jingle Bells.

But now all that giving out was leading to their fragile body forming cracks. The body was breaking down. It couldn’t keep on giving out. Illnesses came,  sleeplessness, anxiety, depression. The body was trying to send a message – Stop abusing the cup.

The Cup

Many years ago, I once spent some time with a counselor by the name of Ruth Penny, and she suggested that I do a simple little spiritual exercise. I don’t know if she had developed herself or it was someone else’s, but I use it all the time.

Its simply to imagine yourself as a cup and to notice what is filling your cup and what is emptying it. The input and the output. What is flowing in and what is being taken out.

It’s a simple exercise of attention.

1. Get your journal or a piece of paper and a penHave some writing paper, a journal, or your diary so you can write down your experiences.Keeping a record of your entries will enable you to see trends in your life, and it may well point out to you things that God wants you to take notice of.

2. Quieten yourselfThis is an exercise of attention, so you will need to be quiet and give yourself space to breathe and focus. Allow yourself to be still.Prayerfully ask Spirit (Holy) to open the awareness of your cup to you. To see what God sees.

3. Imagine your life as a cup.A cup is something we are all familiar with. Jesus used a Cup as a metaphor for our lives.The cup is a container for something. They have a purpose and practicality to them.This exercise is not about the external aspects of the cup, such as color, age, cracks, or chips, but more about what flows in and out.

4. Write down your Cup fillers and Cup drainers.As you consider how your life is a cup, take note of what has filled your life and what has drained your life.Cup Fillers – what has given you a sense of life?It might be the smallest of things such a smile from a stranger, something you have read, something you have achieved. It is anything positive that has been poured into your life. Don’t dismiss even the smallest of droplets that made their way into your life. They all add up.Cup Drainers – what has drained the life from you?Write down those things where you have sensed a drain on you. It might be a relationship, a conflict, or a work situation. It could be anything, but for whatever reason, this has drained some sense of life from you.

5. Prayerfully look at the Fillers and Drainers.Examine them and ponder over them.· How full or empty is your cup at the moment?· Do you notice any patterns in what has filled you or drained you?· Is there anything you need to do differently?· What do you need to let go of?· What do you need to embrace?· What will repeat itself if you don’t make some changes?

You might like to discuss and problem-solve some of the drainers with others. Set yourself some small and highly achievable goals that focus on both filling your cup and dealing with the drainers.

Note:  Some things can be both drainers and fillers. For example, I love talking with people at a deep level. It both fills my cup but also drains it. This is ok, as long as I  am aware of it and learn ways to fill up.

6. Repeat the exerciseI encourage you to repeat this exercise. Make it a regular part of your life. It could be every day or week. As you do this, you will begin to see patterns to what fills and drains your cup.

There may be an invite in those patterns to explore further. Those habits, both good and bad, have a revealing nature to themselves. I wonder what they can tell you about you?

By the way, this exercise is beneficial if you are considering a career change. You begin to notice the patterns that might be like signposts for a future direction to explore.

7. Give yourself a cup of graceIf I could everyone a cup of some unique beverage, it would be a cup of grace. We can so easily measure ourselves against others and pick up a nasty case of comparisonitis.

The poison of comparison cripples our contentment.Instead, give yourself a cup of grace.

 

Mental Health is ... taking notice of your cup. What is filling you and what is draining youCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Justice – is getting what is deservedMercy – is not getting what is deservedGrace – is getting what is not deservedDarrell Johnson
  • To be more aware of the other person, first become more aware of yourself. Without self-awareness, self cannot be laid aside, in order to listen. D. Riddell
  • Love yourself as you love others. If you don’t care for your own needs, you’ll soon be unable to care for those who need you.  D. Riddell
  • Spiritual growth begins with the easily overlooked disciplines of attentiveness and surrender. David Benner
Questions to answer
  1. What, on a regular basis, has an energy filling effect on the cup of your life?
  2. What, on a regular basis, has an energy-draining effect on the cup of your life?
  3. Are you able to give yourself a nice full cup of grace?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

 
Jul 23, 2020
Is The Load Too Heavy? Watch With Me
12:59

The load we carry can get too heavy, and we can breakdown. But we can grow through it when we have others who will watch with us.

I needed help. I vividly remember the day I rang emergency services. I had come to a point where I knew I couldn’t carry the load by myself anymore. I had been beaten down emotionally and needed help.

Every one of us is different. We all have different tolerance levels and abilities to handle what life throws at us. For some, they seem to be, for want of a better word, hard and tough. Nothing seems to break them. They have built a toughness around themselves, and nothing seems to get to them.

Then others are more sensitive and soft. They are more open to getting hurt. With enough poundings from the fist of life, they can be pummeled to the ground.

We need both groups of people, and I would say that each can learn something from the other.

Which group do you think you would be in? What would those who know you well say about you? Soft or hard? Tough or tender? Maybe somewhere, in-between?

The load that’s too heavy

Every one of us, at some point in life, will come to a place where the load gets too heavy to bear. It’s what you do at that crucial moment is vital.

For me, it was calling emergency services. I knew that there was nothing I could do within myself to dig my way out. I needed others to help me. I was sick, unwell, and required those who had skills, knowledge, and resources to help me rebuild.

For a brief period of my life, I was receiving support from Mental Health Services. It was good, and it was what I needed. The stress load had become too heavy for my fragile human frame to handle.

In the garden

In one of the most precious stories from Jesus, we find him when his load was too heavy. It was before his crucifixion, his agonizing death where all the pain of the world would be loaded on his shoulders.

That is a heavy load, one only the God of the universe could handle.  Yet, in his fully human, fully divine self, he invited us into his expression of load-bearing.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Matthew 26:36-46

Watching with

At that moment of deepest anxiety and fear, he wanted community. Yes, there was the prayer to his papa, but there was also an invite for closeness with friends. He asked for three of them, Peter, James, and John, to step aside and watch with him.

He wanted connection, someone of human form that was going to be physically there with him.

We value rugged individualism, the self-made man or woman, independence, yet God needed others. God, in the form of Jesus, exposed his vulnerability and need for community.

I don’t want to be alone when I die. When someone close to me died of cancer a few years ago, we as a family took turns sitting by her bedside as the heavy load of cancer ate her life away. We watched with her. She was not alone.

What is your heavy load

We all carry a load, a pile of stress, worries, and pressures. Sometimes it can become overwhelmingly heavy, and we can feel ourselves being crushed under the burden.

We need someone to watch with us. Some loads can’t be shifted easily and may take time to lessen. Some we will carry every day of our lives.

Guilt, shame, loss, traumatic memories are but some that many of us bear.

None of us will carry the sin of the world on our shoulders, as Jesus did, and so, in a relative sense, our burden is light, but it can still feel too heavy to handle.

I am watching with

We need others who will say, often without words but in actions, these words.

‘I know the load, and I am going to watch with you.I’m not going to try and fix you, save you, advise you, or try to straighten you out. I want you to know that you’re not alone’.

I often would like people to tell me their load. Not that I can do anything about it, but I want them to know they are not alone with it. That the life-sucking aspect of the weight is shared, I want to ‘watch’ with them.

When the load is shared, it feels reduced. When someone else knows the heaviness, then you’re not alone to carry something you were never meant to carry alone.

Perhaps through prayer, a way forward can be known. A flickering candle of hope can emerge in the dark of the moment, and we can stumble our way forward together towards it. That’s what I think Jesus wanted on that dark night.

Watching in the garden

Not everyone is safe. Very few people will not try to fix, save, advise, or try to straighten you out.

What I would like to suggest is that you become one who can quietly watch with others. To ‘shiva‘, like Jobs friends, before they went rogue.

We don’t need others to watch over us like controlling authoritative policemen, but we do need others who are deeply aware of their humanity and can sit and watch with us.

It takes self-awareness, patience, and confidentiality.  There is also a need for grit and openness to the divine and their work within all of us. There is a lot of good that can come out of the garden.

 

Mental Health is ... sharing the load with others that know how to watch with usCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Patience is the very shape of love. Without it, religion is merely about enforcing laws and requirements. Richard Rohr Patience
  • Entering someone’s life is hugely different from merely guiding them. Larry Crabb 
  • There is a solution to “unspeakable loneliness”: it needs to be spoken, to be shared. Ron Rolheiser
  • When spiritual friends share their stories, the others listen without working. They rest. There’s nothing to fix, nothing to improve. A spiritual community feels undisturbed quiet as they listen, certainly burdened . . . but still resting in the knowledge that the life within, the passion for holiness, is indestructible. It needs only to be nourished and released. Larry Crabb, Becoming a True Spiritual Community: A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be
  • No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God’s faithful love. Henri Nouwen
Questions to answer
  1. What experiences have you had of heavy loads breaking you?
  2. When someone listens well, what do they do that makes the difference?
  3. When the load is shared, it makes a difference. Can you think of a moment in your life when you experienced this?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

Jul 17, 2020
Am I My Brothers Keeper? Guilt-Trip Anyone?
12:48

It was the feelings of a guilt trip and the words of being a ‘Brothers Keeper’ that triggered me. But was it genuinely helping me and them to think this way? Something needed to change.

Some people seem to be able to push the manipulation guilt trip button every time. They tell you how life has been hard. They share their background and a wide range of struggles. You listen, and you empathize with their struggle, and indeed life is hard for some people.

Then you look at yourself and all that you have. You may begin to feel some guilt, then some sense of a need to help them. You want to help, but you have only so much life, energy, time, and money.

In the Bible, there is a story, or in particular, a phrase from that story, that can kick into gear and hit the guilt-trip button.

My Brothers Keeper 

It is the story of the first murder and an attempt to deflect blame.

It comes right from the story of Cain killing Abel in the first book of the Bible – Genesis.

Two brothers, Cain and Abel, bring gifts to God. Abel’s gift was accepted because he did what was right. Cain does not do what was right, and so it was rejected. Cain was furious, and God could see that he was angry. That is where we pick up the story.

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance [facial expression] fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. 

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! Genesis 4:6-10

Before we go any further, the word ‘keeper’ comes from the Hebrew word ‘Shomer’ which means ‘keeper,’ ‘guardian,’ and ‘watcher.’

At first glance, Cain wanted to avoid the issue. He knew exactly where Abel was. Avoid and hide by saying a lie. We all do it to see if we can get away with our murders.

Then he says, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ asking if he is the one that is meant to know where his brother is located. He is essentially saying, ‘How would I know that? There is no GPS tracker attached to him.’

God is offering an opportunity for Cain to come clean and confess to what he has done.

Instead, Cain tries to shift responsibility away from himself for what he had done and to put it on to God. Its a manipulation, an attempt to guilt-trip God.

Essentially he is saying ‘God, you knew I was angry and you did nothing about it. Arent you, God, the keeper, guardian, and watcher of Abel? You could have stopped all this. So don’t blame me. I can’t be held responsible for my actions.’

The point is that God could see Cain’s heart and the murderous anger within him. God warned him of it and Cain’s personal responsibility to master it. Cain chose to ignore God’s counsel.

Life is hard, and it’s easy to blame others and God for our difficulties, some of which may be quite valid.

But then we turn around and expect others, including God, to fix life, without any acceptance of our human failings and personal responsibilities. We project onto others our anger, pain, resentment, and try to guilt-trip manipulate them, including God, into making things better. It’s all about us.

We want God and others to do for us what we are expected to do for ourselves.

The ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ of being a brother or sister keeper

This little story tells us a lot about responsibility and where it starts and finishes.

The ‘Yes’

I believe that to some degree, I am to have a caring, loving, and keeping relationship with others.  When I see injustices, I need to respond. I am called to care for others and help them. I am, in a sense, to be like God in this instance where he warned Cain of what he could see could happen. I also need to make sure they know they are responsible to ‘master’ their own life.

As a father, I took full responsibility for my children when they were little. I was their keeper, guardian, and I watched over everything about them. As they got older, I passed over more of the responsibility to them. I gave them advice and let them make choices and accept the responsibility for the decisions they made. I didn’t rescue them, but they knew I was there for them.

The ‘No’

I am not my brothers or sisters keeper in the sense that I will not take responsibility for the choices they made.  I am not going to cross the line where I do for others what they could and should be doing for themselves. God didn’t intervene with Cain because Cain had freedom of choice. God does not have puppet strings ‘coming down from heaven’ connected to our movements.

Is someone ‘shoulding’ on you?

I’ve heard and seen it many times. Those words of ‘We should be doing more for them’.

The words may be voiced verbally, or they could be internal whispers that have a tinge of obligation, guilt shadowing around them.

I remember two women who used to come to our Tuesday night service. Well, actually they only ever came when we had a meal. Primarily they only came for what they could get. When I asked them if they could help wash some dishes, there was always some excuse that they couldn’t help. Great stories of struggle were told. There was an attitude that it was everyone else’s responsibility to look after them.

I would sense them trying to guilt-trip me, and they were masters at it. They had people running around after them doing all sorts of things. They had never really grown up. There was a dependency lifestyle, and they were milking it for all its worth. It was idleness instead of industry.

Whenever I sense this feeling of being guilt-tripped by a P.L.O.M. (Poor Little Old Me), I go to one question.

‘What are you doing about this?

I shift the responsibility back on to them. It’s like what God did with Cain when he said, ‘you must master it’.

I get very pragmatic and practical. I don’t rescue. Rescuing teaches nobody anything and only breeds resentment, tiredness, and fatigue in yourself and dependency on others.

Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. 

It may seem harsh, but I think there are too many people in society that are getting too much for doing too little. Sure, there are always exceptions to the rule, but I have met too many people who draw a government benefit, etc. that do nothing to make things better for themselves or others.

I know that not everyone is capable of maintaining a full-time job or even find one, but it’s the attitudes and belief systems of entitlement and dependency on others that annoy me.

Contrast that with the attitude of Paul

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10

In Mental Health, it could be facing your fears and going to see a doctor about your depression or anxiety. It could be taking that next millimeter step in recovery and asking for help to master the struggles to be self-responsible. You might need to learn how to say ‘No’ to the manipulations and guilt-trips projected on to you.

When you have the feelings of a guilt trip being loaded on you, and you hear the words of being a ‘Brothers Keeper’, ask yourself this. By helping them, is it genuinely helping them?

 

Mental Health is ... not caving into guilt-trips and being a 'brother's keeper'. It's teaching and modeling self -responsibility. CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Your future is not determined by your past or your parentage, but by your own choices-the the choices you make today and tomorrow. Now is the key to tomorrow, not yesterday. D. Riddell
  • We cannot excuse our sinful responses to others on the grounds of their mistreatment of us. We are responsible for what we do. Larry Crabb
  • Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech.” Parker J. Palmer.
Questions to answer
  1. What happens in you when you sense you are being ‘guilt-tripped’?
  2. What is mentally healthier? To expect/ demand God to make life better for us, or to ask God to help us to discover God and to ‘master’ the struggles.
  3. How do you learn to be pragmatic in the face of emotional manipulation?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

Jul 12, 2020
Are you Praying Against Yourself? The Abusive Art of Self-Deprecation
08:38

Words said, have power. Self-deprecation is to pray against the self, but we can learn to pray for the self and so develop healthier thinking patterns.

It was the words at the end of his sentence that caught my attention.

‘I’m so stupid; I always do things like that’.

You learn to notice them—little words used as qualifying comments that disempower the self.

I think that many of us have little words or sentences that we probably tell ourselves and others. Sometimes they slip out in conversation.

Maybe they are offered up as an excuse or reason for things being the way they are.

Most of these thought sentences are kept quietly to ourselves, where they can continue to shape and poison our thinking. We say them so many times that we become used to them. They are our default thinking regime.

As a child, I was taught to ‘not think too highly of oneself’ Romans 12:3 and that ‘pride comes before a fall’ Proverbs 16:18

So the obvious course is to think lowly of yourself and to keep yourself humble through a self-flagellation diatribe of dismissive self-talk.

We self-deprecate as a spiritual discipline, thinking we are doing the right thing.

Yet, I believe, all this self-deprecation can become like poison leaking into the groundwater of our soul.

It can slowly poison us to where we loath ourselves, and we consider ourselves as a worm and as a wretch. Sit in a pile of pus long enough, and you will get sick.

Our velcro brain looks for the negative.

The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. [This] shades “implicit memory” – your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood – in an increasingly negative direction. Rick Hanson

The abusive art of self-deprecation 

Some have mastered the art of self-deprecation. They are perfectionists at belittling and undervaluing themselves. Then they turn their attention towards others.

It’s very interesting to look into the background of the word deprecate.

To ‘deprecate’ means to ‘pray against’.

Early 17th century (in the sense’ pray against’): from Latin deprecat- ‘prayed against (as being evil)’, from the verb deprecari, from de- (expressing reversal) + precari’ pray.’

When we self-deprecate, we pray against the self and various parts of who we are.

We use words to cut ourselves down. This gets, as I have said, into the groundwater of our soul, our self-talk becomes contaminated with this poison. We drink from this well, thinking it’s normal. Our brain wiring rope bridges keep being reinforced.

If I were to say that I was going to ‘deprecate’ you, to ‘pray against you’, then you would consider this as being abusive.

If we see a parent vomiting toxic words on a child or witness an abusive husband, wife, employer, we would call this abuse. Yet we tolerate and possibly admire people who do this to themselves. We think it’s ok to do it to ourselves.

Crushed Soul

Is your soul being crushed?

I read this passage the other day.

Fools are undone by their big mouths;    their souls are crushed by their words. Proverbs 18:7

What words are you saying to yourself? What words are you saying to others?

I’ve met many people whose souls have been crushed. Either by the words of others or by the words they have ‘deprecated’ (prayed) over themselves.

We can’t control the actions of others. Some people are going to spill poison on us because that is what’s in them. They need to take responsibility for themselves.

But we can control ourselves and our response to their poison. Do we take it in, do we deprecate ourselves with it?

Praying for the self  If we deprecate or pray against the self, perhaps a better and healthier alternative is to pray for the self. To pray in support of the self.

What would that look like?

Perhaps it would be praying positive, loving, and compassionate words about ourselves.

  • I am loved
  • I am known
  • I have worth
  • I have value
  • God loves me, and I am worthy of this love
  • God rejoices over me, renews me, and delights in me. Zephaniah 3:17

What does your crushed soul most need to hear?

This is where journaling and a thinking compass can help.

Journalling can be useful to unpack many of those self-deprecating thoughts we keep telling our souls. Then we can use a thinking compass to record down prayers of positivity, love, and compassion to help us rewire the brain.

Words said, have power. When we self-deprecate, we pray against the self, but we can learn to pray for the self and so develop healthier thinking patterns.

 

Mental Health is ... self praying faith, hope, and love into your soulCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • The brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. Rick Hanson
  • To shift a truth from your head to your heart, speak it loud, speak it often, and make a deliberate choice to believe it. David Riddell
  • Praise and encouragement is much more effective in changing others’ behavior than is criticism, but which do you use on yourself? D. Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. Do you notice when people say little words of ‘self-deprecation’?
  2. What words do you tell yourself? Are they encouraging words or critical words?
  3. What words do you need to pray over your self?
Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Florian Krumm on Unsplash
Jul 03, 2020
The Right Word at the Right Time – A Rhema Word
13:34

We can get into thinking ruts, but the right word at the right time can lift us out and move us into new and better thinking. So we need to be searching for the Rhema words.

It was only a short sentence that he said, but the words seemed to have power behind them. It was like a new path had opened up for me that gave me some encouraging hope. They were the right words at the right time. I quickly wrote them down in my notebook so I could reread them later.

Words can have that effect. They some times jump out of seemingly nowhere and say ‘This is for you’.

Words such as

  • You have worth
  • You matter
  • You can do this

 

Custom-made words

You can always tell a great orator. They are wordsmiths. Somehow, with clever creativity, they weave together a few words, tell a story, and move you emotionally. Something changes in you.

But what if there was a sentence that was custom-made for you. An encouragement, a piece of wisdom, an acknowledgment.

The writer of the proverbs tells us this.

The right word at the right time    is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.Proverbs 25:11

I’ve never had a piece of custom-made jewelry. The nearest I have come to this was when my mother used to knit woolen jerseys for me as a child. She would measure me up with a tape measure and write down on a pad my measurements. It was a very special feeling when she would present to me a perfectly fitting jersey, custom-made for me.

Some words are custom-made for you that you need to hear.

Rhema and Logos

In the Bible, we find that there are two different Greek words to refer to the word of God. One of these words is logos, and the other is rhema.

Logos refers to the written text—lots and lots of words. We read the logos, and we can gain knowledge about God and history and all sorts of amazing things.

Rhema is different and refers to the intimate speaking of God to us. It is that breath of truth we need to hear. From knowledge, we move to knowing.

Jesus knew the importance of listening for the rhema.

‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word (rhema)that comes from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:4

The words (rhema) that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63

I have listened to a lot of logos. I have gained a lot of knowledge from studying the Bible and reading many books. But in this quest, I have longed for the rhema. It’s those custom-made God breathes that excite me the most.

I so need that truth to fill my brain and rewire its circuity.

How do you discover a rhema?

You won’t catch fish in a desert. You go where fish swim.

If you want gold, you go to where it’s buried.

One of my enduring memories of my parents was their reading of a devotional bible study every morning. It was one of their ways of searching things out, looking for the rhema.

Much of what we most need to hear and know is hidden away like rare gemstones.

It is the glory of God to conceal things,    but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2

I have a little phrase that keeps me searching. I have to ‘get in the way’ of God to discover what I need to hear. I keep knocking on the door of God’s wisdom house, asking for bread in the middle of the night. I ‘get in the way’, seek, and knock.

“Here’s what I’m (Jesus) saying:Ask and you’ll get;Seek and you’ll find;Knock and the door will open.Luke 11:5-9

Too many of us are sitting and waiting for a God to do home deliveries of truth and then to spoon-feed us like babies. It’s in the seeking that opens our brain up into new ways of living.

I was once a pastor to a group of people where most of them struggled with serious mental illness. One of the ladies in the group had severe paranoid schizophrenia. She would frequently come to wild and delusional conclusions about people and situations. Along with health professionals, I would help her to work through these. Shame would come, and we would talk and walk through the struggle.

Many people found her difficult to be around. They lost patience with her.

I remember her one day telling me about her Bible reading. That every day she would read the scriptures and ponder on them.

I suggested that we read them together and talk about them. She pulled out a very worn bible with underlined verses and notes in the margin.

Here is what excited me. She was getting in the way of God. She was knocking on the door, seeking the truth, looking for the Rhema, and I was invited to part of her exploration. She may have been discounted by the rich and socially acceptable, but she was adored by God.

Feeding on rhema

Recently I had a rhema breathed on to me. Here it is.

‘I’m making garlands for God, my God.’

That may not speak to you a great deal, it may seem irrelevant, but for my heart, it speaks the truth.

I felt its breath when I was reading Psalm 20

See those people polishing their chariots,    and those others grooming their horses?    But we’re making garlands for God our God.The chariots will rust,    those horses pull up lame—    and we’ll be on our feet, standing tall. Psalm 20:7-8

It’s so easy to have our focus on what others are achieving. Their supposed successes, their ‘polished chariots’ and ‘groomed horses’. Comparisonitis kills the soul. The psalmist takes us to where our true focus is meant to be. Doing something beautiful and delighting to God.

So, ‘Im making garlands for God’ via my writing, gardening, and general life activities.

Every day I am presented with ‘polished chariots’ and ‘groomed horses’ that can sicken me with comparisonitis, but I feed on truth, on rhema, and therefore I retrain the brain.

I have added, ‘I’m making garlands for God, my God.’ to my thinking compass. I read that compass every day to help me keep on course. Slowly and surely, I am creating a new rope bridge in my brain. Every time I repeat the phrase ‘I’m making garlands for God, my God.’ in my brain, that synapse in the brain gets stronger and stronger.

When you receive a Rhema, it’s your responsibility to care for it. To memorize it and take it into your thinking.

We can get into thinking ruts, but the right word at the right time can lift us out and move us into new and better thinking. So we need to be searching for the Rhema words.

 

Mental health is ... seeking after that Rhema word. The right word at the right time. CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Our great problem is trafficking in unlived truth. We try to communicate what we’ve never experienced in our own life. Dwight L. Moody
  • Transformation is possible. It is possible to acquire the consciousness of Christ. It is possible to know God, not just believe in God. And it is possible to engage life with the wisdom that flows from this deep inner knowing. David Benner
  • Nothing digs ditches like shovel fulls of dirt. Rick Hanson
Questions to answer
  1. What have been some words that have met you just at the right time?
  2. Where do you ‘Ask, seek, and knock’ for your daily rhema bread?
  3. Have you ever had something custom-made for you? What feelings did that generate in you?
Further reading

How to Create New Rope Bridges in our Thinking

Change the way you think and act

How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

Jun 24, 2020
How to Create New Rope Bridges in our Thinking
13:08

Our thoughts can take us to both the best and worst of places, but we can create new thinking pathways. It will require a plan to rope bridge the synapse gap. 

It was a small rope bridge, and it had only three wires. One wire where you could place your feet, and then two higher wires to the left and right where you could stretch your arms out and grasp with your hands. It wasn’t that high, a mere 5 feet off the ground, but it was high enough that on this confidence course, it provided a challenge.

I used to be a pastor to a group where most of the people involved had serious long-term mental health struggles. Most of the people I supported struggled with either anxiety, depression, P.T.S.D., schizophrenia, addictions, personality disorders, or something else that made life hard for them.

Twice a year, we would go away for a camp. Sandy beach, fishing, good food, fun, and a confidence course.

We would then invite people to try the rope bridge. With several helpers, we would encourage the person to take the first step and then the next. You could see the fear etched into their faces.

We would tell them they were doing great and to keep focused on the other end. Telling them to take one step at a time. We would even hold the wire for them to stop it wobbling.

The bridge would wobble and shift, but with every step, the walker would inch their way across. Photos were taken, and celebrations and high fives at the end.

For some, it became a goal at every camp to walk that wire bridge. They were learning something new. It was hard, scary, and a challenge, but inside their brains, they were also creating a new rope bridge.

For many of them, they had to stop listening to the worst words they had repeatedly been telling themselves.

The worst words

I think the worst words anyone can say are ‘I can’t change.’ Or words to that effect, such as ‘That’s just who I am’ and ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’

It disappoints me because it speaks to a belief of hopelessness, despair, and defeat. They are ‘locked in’ to a set of thinking and behavior habits.

I want to whisper, and maybe even shout, ‘Resurrection’ into those neurons. Bringing new life and hope.

What we can learn from a rope bridge

One of the most informative videos about how we learn something new comes from Dr. Robert Winston in his series The Human Body.

 

 

Transcript:Learning something new means rearranging the way our brain works.

Our brain has an astonishing one hundred billion neurons or brain cells all connected together. Learning is about creating and strengthening pathways through these neurons for impulses of electricity. But between each and every connection in our brains is a tiny gap called a synapse. For any of us to learn something new, the electrical signal has to jump across this gap to continue its journey.

The gap between the two brain cells is tiny, but that doesn’t mean its straight forward for a signal to get from one side to the other. For us, it’s like crossing a deep ravine, and getting from one side to the other should tell us something about the way we learn.

The first time a signal crosses from one brain cell to the other demands the most effort, and it’s the same when we cross our ravine. The first trip across it is the hardest.

Having crossed the ravine once the journeys across get easier and easier, and a similar thing happens when we learn something.

To start with, learning is difficult, but as the signal crosses the gap between the brain cells, again and again, we establish a more solid pathway.

By the time we have made the crossing over and over again, it becomes effortless. We can do it whenever we like.

New thinking pathways

Watching and thinking about that video I have seven observations

  1. A conscious decision needs to be made.It’s a choice you have to make to begin thinking differently. So, do you want to think differently?Yes or No.
  2. A behavior is required.You can talk about change as much as you like, but following through with behavior and taking action is where it’s at. For me, it is reading my ‘Thinking compass’ every day.It’s me saying to the synapses that this matters. I prayerfully ask God to create that new pathway in the brain.
  3. It takes effortWe want change to happen magically, don’t we, but it will require effort on our part to build new pathways in our thinking.
  4. It takes timeIt is going to take about 60 -70 days to get that new pathway slotted in and on autopilot, and the old one pruned apart. See Dr.Shannon Irvine
  5. Repetition strengthens the path.In the video, we saw how, with each crossing, the strength of the bridge increased. From a single rope, it then became a bridge with planks you could walk across.Back and forth, back and forth, it was the purposeful repetition that built the strength of the bridge.
  6. Old pathways slowly lose their power.We used to go this way in our thinking, but now we have a better route. I used to crawl, but then I found walking to be better. Walking is the automatic default way of moving now.When I talk about this with others, I like them to imagine that old wire bridge, the old thinking pathway/bridge falling into disrepair. It has cobwebs growing over it, it’s not getting maintained, and so slowly over time, it loses its appeal, and it falls apart.
  7. Encouragement from others helps build the bridge.I’m glad that Robert Winston had someone helping him build his bridge. It’s precisely the same when we are learning something new, creating new brain pathways.To have a guide, coach, or a friend that cheers us along in our thinking will help us reinforce our new life.
By default or by design

One of the little thinking coaches I have in my daily thinking compass is this.

Life happens one thought at a time by default or design.

Many of my default thinking pathways have a negativity bias to them, but I know that I can change the way I think and act. It’s my brain, my responsibility, and so, I choose to live my life by design.

My brain is rewiring itself. With a sense of design, I want to think about

whatever is true,whatever is honorable,whatever is just,whatever is pure,whatever is pleasing,whatever is commendable,if there is any excellence andif there is anything worthy of praise,think about these things.Philippians 4:8

Our thoughts can take us to both the best and worst of places, but we can create new thinking pathways. It will require a plan to bridge the synapse gap.

 

Mental Health is ... proactively creating new thinking pathways in the same way a new rope bridge is made.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • You are the creator of your thoughts, and it’s your thoughts that can create the future that you want. It really is in your control. Dr. Shannon Irvine
  • If it’s been learned, it can always be unlearned. e.g., ways of coping, personal habits, survival kits, and nasty addictions. D. Riddell
  • A changed life demands having new understandings in place when you need them. Store them up now and lubricate by revision. D. Riddell
  • The chief thief is the belief beneath. The subconscious is always the power behind the decisions we make and the outcomes we experience. David Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. How much do you think you are in control of your thoughts?
  2. What did you learn from the video?
  3. Is there some thinking habit that you need to unlearn by creating a new neural pathway?
Further reading

BarryPearman

Photo by Valentina Girelli on Unsplash

Jun 18, 2020
Change the way you think and act
10:44

Do you keep making the same bad choices over and over again? You can change, and it all begins with a decision to change the way you think and act.

It was New Zealand’s worst airline disaster. On November 28th, 1979, Air New Zealand Flight 901 flew into Mount Erebus on Ross Island, Antarctica. All 237 passengers and 20 crew died.

I remember the first news reports coming in on TV in the evening, saying that the flight was overdue and that contact had been lost. We woke the next morning to a tragedy.

Initially, it was concluded that it was pilot error, but a Royal Commission was set up to dig deeper. It found that two factors caused the accident. A correction made to the coordinates of the flight path the night before the disaster and a failure to inform the flight crew of the change.

The result was that the aircraft was being guided by the computer in a direct path toward Mount Erebus.

.

Surely you would think the pilots would be able to see the mountain in front of them and steer to avoid it, but they were in whiteout conditions.

Outside there was a layer of clouds that blended with the white of the snow-covered volcano, forming a sector whiteout – there was no contrast between the two to warn the pilots. The effect deceived everyone on the flight deck, making them believe that the white mountainside was the Ross Ice Shelf. Mount Erebus disaster

Then there was the attempt to cover up the causes of the disaster. Justice Mahon, chair of the Royal Commission, accused Air New Zealand of presenting “an orchestrated litany of lies.”

Your disaster

I’ve known a few disasters in my life. I’ve also seen others have crashes. Many of them preventable.

Then there are those crashes that are repeated time and time. You keep on doing the same thing, expecting different results, but wind up with the same disaster on your hands.

You blame other people. Accusations fly. You hide the facts and twist the truth.  You orchestrate a ‘litany of lies’ believing them to be true. Deep down, though, it was you that was making the same decisions.

It’s like you have an onboard computer with wrong coordinates loaded into it, flying you towards an inevitable disaster.

Change the way you think and act.

Then there was a time of momentous change in the history of the world, but for one man, it got extremely personal. He had his inbuilt computer brain telling him to always respond to a situation in a certain way.

Even though he had been a follower of Jesus for three years, and had listened to everything Jesus had said, seen all the miracles, he still had the disaster.

Peter denied knowing Jesus, and suddenly his world collapsed.

Later he was forgiven and restored, but this was a pivotal moment in Peter’s life. It was a time of course correction. He had to change his thinking and acting.

Later, that is his message to an equally misguided group of people.

Change the way you think and act. Acts 2:38 3:19

Change is a course correction—an alteration in your thinking, which leads to new actions and behaviors.

One of my favorite quotes is from the French philosopher, Christian mystic, and social activist Simeon Weil.

Sin is not a distance, it is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction. Simone Weil, Waiting for God

We all have turned our gaze in the wrong direction. All of us have some disastrous coordinates programmed into our neural pathways.  Often these are there from childhood. Early conclusions we made about life steers our ship.

Every day we have experiences that subconsciously reinforce our belief that …

  • The world is a dangerous place
  • No one can be trusted
  • I have no worth
  • My situation can’t change
  • I have no rights
  • (what is a deep belief that you hold)
The dance of course correction

There is a dance that we are invited to participate in. It’s a dance of ‘course correction’.

When I was in school, we had square dancing. We would choose a partner, and then four couples would stand in a square. The frazzled teacher (frazzled after herding children) would put a record on the record player and out would come some scratchy American folk singer encouraging us to take your partner, swing them to the left and right, dosey doe and go to someplace called ‘Red River Valley’.

It was rhythm and patterns, and you got to dance with that pretty girl!

I believe we are all in a course correction dance with partners who are perfect in every way, know the exact steps to take, and are very gracious about our stepping on their toes.

My little logo for Turning the Page symbolizes this.

Four dancing spirals, or Koru. God as Parent, Jesus the Son, and Spirit is inviting us to change the way we think and act.

I get invitations to course-correct every day. Some I ignore and some I explore. Some I take in and make them part of my thinking compass.

I don’t want you or anyone else to keep on heading towards disasters – large or small, but it requires a willingness to change the way you think and act.

 

Mental Health is ... accepting that we need to change the way we think and actCLICK TO TWEET

 

Quotes to consider
  • Metanoeite, or change of consciousness, can only come with time. Patience is the very shape of love. Without it, religion is merely about enforcing laws and requirements. Richard Rohr Patience
  • The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life, or what we call “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
Questions to consider
  1. Do you ever have moments where you mutter to yourself, ‘Why do I keep on doing that’?
  2. We all want others to change, but how difficult is it to change yourself? Why?
  3. What is a false, misleading belief that you have that seems to look for evidence of being true? e.g., I have no worth
Further Reading

What Swiss Cheese has taught me about Forgiving Myself and Others

How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

Mental Health is … You Taking Ownership of You

Barry Pearman

Photo by Vandan Patel on Unsplash

 
Jun 11, 2020
Breaking it down before you breakdown: David and Goliath
06:17

Stress can add up to be too much, and we can have a mental health breakdown, but when we break it down like in the story of David and Goliath, we can find a way through the chaos.

Stressful times can feel like a massive avalanche of overwhelming pressure. The keyword in that sentence is ‘feel.’  You have a feeling of living in the overwhelming shadow of something that could crush you.

It was like an overflowing river of complaints.

It took her an hour to express all her problems and pains to me. She had not been listened to for some time, and all the fear, anger, sadness, frustration, and plain tiredness had to be released. I think she thought I had some sort of magic prayer wand that could be waved and all the problems would disappear.

Instead, I suggested that we, together, break it down before she had a breakdown. Then I told her a Bible story.

It’s the story of David and Goliath. You can read the story in full here, but it’s the story of a little guy taking on a bully, and when we look further into the story, we can glean some ideas of how to handle our stress.

David and Goliath And

When looking at stressful situations, there are a lot of ‘and’s.’ This problem and that problem and then this situation and then that issue and of course this crisis and then that situation. Lots and lots of ‘and’s.’

The story of David and Goliath is full of ‘and’s.’

A fearful King.And a large hostile army facing the Israelites.And an ‘incredible hulk’ kind of warrior facing them.And no one brave enough to fight.And dismayAnd terror.

Do you see how the ‘and’s’ add up? They keep adding and adding and adding until we lose sight of the individual components. It all adds to it being one HUGE PROBLEM.

But

But there was a young teenage boy, David, visiting his brothers.But he had trained himself to kill lions and bears.But he knew how to handle a slingshot.But he knew how to pick the perfect stones for aerodynamic accuracy.But he knew where the weak spot was that would kill.But he knew his God.But he knew how to breakdown any overwhelming problem into its constituent parts and to take action.But he was dismissed as being too young.

For every problem that feels overwhelming, there is a ‘but.’

Therefore

It’s time to take action.

Therefore David fell back on the confidence and faith that he had developed when facing lions and bears.Therefore David rejected the offer of the King’s armor and weapons.Therefore David chose five smooth stones.Therefore he prayed.Therefore he narrowed his focus to aim for the perfect headshot.Therefore he overcame.

David went in ‘the strength that he had’ much like Gideon was called to do (see Three Bible Verses to Reassure when You feel Stress)

Break it down before you breakdown

Much of the stress we face can feel overwhelming, like a Goliath, but it can be broken down into smaller and smaller components.

At times we need to get quite pragmatic about our lives.

  • What is in my control and what is not.
  • What I can do and what others need to do.
  • What I am responsible for and what I am not responsible for.

When we breakdown the problem into manageable chunks, we can then tackle each part of the problem in bite-sized pieces. As they say, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time’.

What is your Goliath?

What taunts you? Is there something that seems overwhelming and huge that you are facing. Does it feel too big for you to cope with?

Break it down before it breaks you down.

 

Mental Health is ... learning how to be pragmatic and to breakdown problems, before they break you downCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • A goal without a plan is just a wish.― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away. Linus Pauling
  • Before you get anything else, get organized. It will always save you time and trouble and unnecessary anger. David Riddel
Questions to answer
  1. Thinking of a situation you are facing, what are its parts?
  2. What is a ‘Goliath’ to you?
  3. What are the ‘but’s’ in your life that you can strengthen yourself in?
Further reading

7 Mental Health Benefits of Having a ‘Can Do’ Task List.

How to Help Others Solve Problems in 8 Steps

Three Bible Verses to Reassure when You feel Stress

Barry Pearman

Photo by Kylo on Unsplash

Learn more about A, B, T – And, But, Therefore writing from Randy Olson.

Jun 08, 2020
Three Bible Verses to Reassure when You feel Stress
09:43

There are times we feel stress, but there is the hope of reassurance when we meditate on some Bible verses.

One of my favorite bible characters was someone who seemed to need consistent reassurance when under stress. He was anxious, unsure, and seemed to want to argue with God. I like that because it means he was much like many of us.

He was human, and that’s important to remember. God chose someone like us. God still chooses imperfect people to do great things. His name was Gideon.

Three Bible Verses to Reassure

Imagine, if you can, that an oppressive all-powerful military force has invaded your land. You are in hiding and no longer living in your home. Instead, you are living in caves and hiding in the countryside. You grow some crops only to have them destroyed. Any animals you have, get slaughtered by the army.

You are living in fear and always looking over your back, wondering when the next attack would come. You cry out to God for help and wait. This was Gideon’s life.

He was so full of fear that he chose a winepress, somewhere he couldn’t be seen to grind out a small amount of wheat.

But in that hidden place, an angel appeared.

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. Judges 6:12

Presence challenges perception

Whatever is stressing you out, there is a greater bigger story going on.

We can get so captured by the human reality of the situation that we lose awareness of the bigger story. That God is with us and that God has a different view of us and what is stressing us out.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6: 12

The phrase ‘The Lord is with you’ is repeated throughout the Bible, and when we come to taste the awareness of presence, then our perception of ourselves is invited to change.

The angel gave Gideon the truest version of himself – ‘Mighty warrior.’

I wonder what an Angel would say about you as the truest version of yourself?

When you are sitting in the presence of the eternal, then the present reality loses its power over you. You begin to feel held in something bigger than your version of what’s going on.

Our perception is blinked

To prevent horses from seeing to the rear and, in some cases, to the side, blinkers are placed near the eyes.  These are little flaps placed near the eyes. They have a ‘blinkered view’.

Their world is captured in what they can see.

When under stress, our perception of things can become so narrow and tight that we lose sight of anything else. Our version of reality becomes fixed.

Gideon had a blinkered version of what reality and God was meant to be like. We all do. His version was much like ours. ‘God, you promised this and that, why haven’t you come through on my terms of what blessing is meant to look like’.

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” Judges 6: 13

I think the angel could see his blinkers. No debate was ventured into, no apologetics lectures were given, and no arguing over various texts. Logic was not going to change his heart, but perhaps a millimeter faith step would. 

The strength you have

I was once publicly shamed by a pastor from the pulpit. He didn’t say my name, but enough people knew that it was me he was referring to when he talked about people not having enough faith to go on the mission field. I was in a leadership coaching group he was leading, and it was a topic I brought up the previous week. So much for confidentiality.

‘The Lord’ ( no longer an angel) speaks to this blinkered hiding man. Try and see yourself in Gideon’s shoes. 

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.” Judges 6:14

Why I brought up that personal story is that faith and confidence grow little by little and step by step.

Gideon is encouraged to ‘Go in the strength you have’. He wasn’t told to be a Superhero, to fake it until you make it, to be something he wasn’t, to leap, and wait for the net to catch him. You can’t be someone else. You can only be you, so start there.

Instead, he was to start where he was. Faith steps begin from where you are and move to where you can be next.

When under high-stress, I like to be very pragmatic and down to earth. I break the problems down into the smallest tiniest little steps to take and then ‘Go in the strength that I have’ to resolve them.

Surprise! It’s you that’s been chosen 

I never thought that I would have a website with weekly posts about Mental Health and Faith. I had a blinkered view, but God didn’t.

Gideon is given an empowering question. A question that moves him to think about the blinkers constricting his life.

“Am I not sending you?” Judges 6:14

Out of everyone available, God chose Gideon. We think we have to be a specific type of person or have various qualifications to be of use to God. God looks at the heart and starts there.

This is a Bible verse that chooses you to consider choosing yourself. Can you do that?

Three Bible Verses

All of us, from time to time, have difficult, stressful times. Periods where we feel alone and anxious. In a winepress doing the daily grind. In those times, it’s important to meditate on these three Bible verses.

  1. “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
  2. “Go in the strength you have.”
  3. “Am I not sending you?” Judges 6:12, 14
Quotes to consider
  • We cannot attain the presence of God. We’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness Richard Rohr
  • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
  • Faith is not the opposite of doubt. Faith is the opposite of certitude. Where you don’t need to be certain to be happy. If you can’t go there you’ll never be happy because you’ll never get logical certitude. If you’re waiting for 100% certitude you’re never going to happy. Richard Rohr. Podcast: Trust is a Rock You Can Build Upon
Questions to answer
  1. What would an angel say to you about who you truly are?
  2. What is the little millimeter faith step God is calling you to take today?
  3. What is it like to know that you’re not alone in those stress-filled times?
Further reading

5 Steps to take when the Panic button has been pushed

How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

Fight, Flight, or Freeze. There is a Mental Health invite Underneath.

Barry Pearman

Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

Jun 07, 2020
Cast your Bread. It’s vital you do
10:32

Cast your bread. You can hold it to yourself, that special thing about you, but it is better for everyone if you ‘Cast your bread.’  Focus on the micro gifts of today.

Even in winter, the children still ask if there are strawberries to pick.

I manage a large vegetable garden at a primary school here in Auckland, and it always amuses me when the children ask me if there are any strawberries. They don’t yet fully understand the concept of seasons and having to wait.

That there is a time to sow and a time reap.

I enjoy harvest time. It’s so good to be picking fresh fruit and vegetables straight from the garden. One of the delights at the school is to pick some fresh ripe tomatoes and then slice a section and give it to a young child.

The taste is so much better than store-bought. Maybe because it’s been grown in soil, without vast amounts of chemical fertilizers and sprays, but also perhaps that the children are involved in the planting and the picking.

Modern Immediacy

Today it’s a world of immediacy. With the quickness of internet speed, we expect to get what we want when we want it.

We go to our supermarket shelves in the middle of winter and can find summer fruits and vegetables.

Perhaps we have lost some sense of waiting with patient expectancy.

Rhythm is built into creation, and the problem with the modern world is that you can get tomatoes at 2 am Rob Bell

Cast your bread

There is a strange little verse in the Bible that genuinely makes you scratch your head.

Cast your bread upon the waters,    for you will find it after many days. Ecclesiastes 11:1

I see myself with a loaf of bread, throwing it into a river and then it coming back to me after a few days as a soggy mess. Now that is weird!

So we need to go back to what the first readers would have heard—their interpretation of this cryptic passage.

Cast – to cast something was to spread it out. Typically in those times, it referred to seed.  A farmer would go and ‘cast’ his seed out into the fields. In these modern days, we have machines that are very precise and will drill or sow the seed to precisely the right depth and placement for optimum germination. In the days of old, it was random, rough, and ready.

Bread – another reference to seed. Bread comes from milled grain. The grain is the seed. Every year at harvest time, a portion of the crop was set aside to be sown at a later date. When the season came for sowing, there better be enough seed. So, in essence, you were sowing your bread.

Waters – You don’t sow seed into water, but you do sow it when you know that the soil will become wet with rain. In Israel, the early rains come in October / November to loosen up the sun-baked dirt. A farmer would go out and cultivate the soil ready for ‘water’ to fill furrows. The seed would then be cast into the ‘waters’ and germinate.

Find it after many days – that little seed, sown in faith, would grow and develop and create seed itself. This would take ‘many days.’ There was not an exact date when the harvest would take place, but more a season.

So many factors come into play as to how well that cereal plant would grow. Many unseen and unknown factors express themselves on that growing plant. There is a mystery, and much of its growth is beyond our control. 

The joy of harvest 

Harvest is a beautiful time. It is that moment where you know the fruit of your labor. You taste it and enjoy its freshness. You want to be forever living in that emotional happiness of reward and satisfaction.

That buzz or thrill can become addictive.

I want it all, I want it now, and I don’t want to have to do the work to get it. We want the delight of intimacy, but we don’t want to do the risky work of relationship building. Please relieve my emotional pain relief, but without the hard work of discovering what’s under the pain.

For most of our days, we are cultivating, sowing seed, and waiting. We trust, and we hope. Confidence grows year upon year, harvest season upon harvest season.

Snake Oil salesman

I think there are many ‘Snake Oil salesmen’ in our world. They offer a quick fix, a panacea to our problems.

In 2019 the most popular searched item on Google was ‘Disney Plus.’

We want our diversions, our harvest of buzz emotions. We want to be told ‘nice things,’ things that will make us ‘feel better.’

“They tell their preachers,    “Don’t waste our time on impracticalities.Tell us what makes us feel better.    Don’t bore us with obsolete religion.That stuff means nothing to us.    Quit hounding us with The Holy of Israel.” Isaiah 30:8-11

We want the harvest without the sweat of cultivation and the casting of our essence to the unknown. Sowing to something beyond our control. To faith, hope, and love.

The joy of the cast 

What if we were to take a joyful approach to the daily grind of a little movement each day.

I enjoy sowing seeds. I get my little packet of seed, open up the tinfoil wrapper and sprinkle the seed on to some seedling mix compost, cover them and water and wait.

The seed, in a sense, dies to its former structure. In that small dry husky shell, some water reaches in and begins the magic. Cells divide and multiply, and before long, a root comes out. Then bursting through the soil a shoot emerges. 

There is already a harvest of growth and change. It’s exciting. Given a few more ‘many days’ and I will be picking tomatoes and slicing cucumbers for children dulled by supermarket immediacy. 

I also sow seeds every week via this blog. I cast them wide and far. Some touch down on good soil and reap a harvest multiple times over. Some seed lands on stones and paths and rocky places. Parable of the Sower

The important thing is to keep on sowing because there is a joy in the seed landing and taking root in people’s lives.

Where are you throwing your life away

Those early subsistence farmers had a choice. Do I eat the seed or not? How much I do keep for myself and my family, and how much do I set aside for sowing?

The same question is ours.

How much of the good are you holding in yourself? Keeping it in and not sharing what you have been given.

That giftedness you have. That unique quality or skill or knowledge you alone seem to have.

My mother made beautiful knitted garments. Many hours she could be seen knitting exquisite baby clothes. Her great-grandbabies wear them now, and maybe even their great-grandbabies will wear them too!

Now that is what I call a harvest from casting to the waters.

What would you most like to harvest in your life? Is it joy, peace, happiness, contentment? Focus on the ‘cast’ of the moment. In ‘many days,’ and maybe even not in your lifetime, there will be a harvest.

 

Mental Health is ... celebrating this present moment of the microscopic 'cast your bread upon the waters' knowing that there will be a harvest in the future.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • I’ve got this thing in my heartI must give you todayIt only lives when youGive it awayBruce Cockburn – Give it away
  • Happiness is found in being free—free from our attachment to circumstances and possessions, and free from our compulsion to gratify our need for power, affection, and security. Liberation is found in the little deaths we surrender to every day. Phileena Heuertz
  • You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. John Bunyan
  • For it is in giving that we receive. St. Francis of Assisi
Questions to answer
  1. What little micro ‘cast’ can you make today?
  2. Has a ‘Snake Oil Salesmen’  sold you lie? If so, what is it?
  3. What would you like to most harvest in your life?
Further reading

How ‘Going the extra Mile’ Flips the Power Dynamics

Life’s not Fair! There is a Mystery to be Known

God is Pruning Me for Love, Joy, and Peace

Barry Pearman

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Jun 03, 2020
Is There a Barrier Stopping You From Getting the Help You Need?
07:20

There are many barriers to getting the help we need for our Mental Health, but the barriers can be taken down, and new hope can be found.

Today as you read this blogpost, approximately ten visits will be made to read the blog post ‘I’ve Had Enough, Take my Life God, I Want to die.’ 

Since writing it in January 2018, it has been read 9000 times. The page comes up as the second offering on google for the search terms ‘take my life God I want to die’.

People all over the world, in the privacy of their pain, are coming to Turning the Page for help.

That scares me. Not that I don’t think I have something to offer them, but that they are expressing their pain to a machine and not a person.

Ok, maybe those that type ‘God I want to die’ into google have reached out to another human soul for help. I hope so, but even in reaching out, there will be other barriers to push through.

There is a barrier. Something is stopping the movement to honesty.

The barrier of …

I’m struggling to find the perfect word to describe this barrier. Could it be the word ‘pride’?

Pride is one of those words that gets a bad rap because it takes our mind to the term arrogance, an over-inflated sense of the self. But pride is more devious than that.

Pride says in confident tones.

‘You’re not like everyone else. You’re different, and you’re ok. You don’t need help to walk this path.  You can solve this problem. There is nothing in you that needs help.’

Coming at night

There is an interesting little story in the Bible about a senior Jewish leader and his communications with Jesus. His name was Nicodemus.

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night John 3:1,2

There was a desired hiddenness to the movements of Nicodemus. He didn’t want to be seen by others in his approach to Jesus. In today’s world, he may well have kept his anonymity, and his soul questions private by searching on Google.

We come at night because we are uncertain about the reception of our honesty.

Alcoholics Anonymous and all the other similar recovery type groups begin with a ruthlessly honest assessment of pride.

‘We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.’

We type into Google

What do you privately type into Google? What, in the secrecy of coming to Jesus at night, would you ask?

I have a short survey form that occasionally people leave their ‘at night’ private comments and questions.

They don’t have to leave their name or any contact details, but it is helpful if they do because often I have some gently curious questions I would like to ask.

I think if you look at the life of Jesus, he asked a lot of gentle and curious questions, especially to those who came by night. I want to be like that.

So here is my ‘and he came by night’ super confidential survey.

powered by

 

Is money a barrier?

Another common barrier that stops people from getting the help they need is money. They don’t have the money to be able to afford counseling or therapy. Books and courses cost too much.

That is why Turning the Page is funded on a ‘Pay What You Want‘ basis. I don’t want finance to be a barrier to people getting help.

 

Mental health is ... understanding the barriers we face and seeking a path through themCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • One of the greatest barriers in seeking help is the stigma that comes with needing it. Courtney Subramanian
  • When man comes into the presence of God he will find, whether he wishes it or not, that all those things which seemed to make him so different from the men of other times, or even from his earlier self, have fallen off. He is back where he always was, where every man always is. C.S. Lewis
  • The proud person always wants to do the right thing, the great thing. But because he wants to do it in his own strength, he is fighting not with man, but with God.  Soren Kierkegaard
Questions to answer
  1. What barriers hinder or stop you or others from getting help?
  2. What part does pride play in stopping the movement to getting help?
  3. What questions do you secretly type into Google?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Matthew Garoffolo

May 11, 2020
You’re doing OK in the Face of Resistance
08:55

There is a resistance we all face into, but with the presence of others, we can know hope. So let’s listen.

It felt to her that she was the only one having struggles. Every day, as her eyes peeled open, there was an instantaneous thought ‘Can I do this’?

As someone who works outside in the wind and rain, I notice that the ambient surroundings have an effect on me. It might be the heat of the summer or the cold of winter. The mud that clings heavily to my boots in the winter or the brightness of the sun in the heat of summer. There is always a resistance I have to push into.

But it’s the wind that truly takes it out of me.

Working in a strong wind feels like life is being gouged out of me. You have to push into it to do anything. There is a resistance to movement. It’s tangible and real, but also unseen.

Having a mental illness can be like that. It’s always there and you have to push through it. It’s the thoughts and feelings that whistle and roar around your life, but you push on and you awake the next day to face it again.

I want to say well done.

Resistance

Writer Steven Pressfield talks about resistance in his book ‘War of Art’.

“Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole.Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man.Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get.Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.” Steven Pressfield, The War Of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle

There is a resistance that every writer has to push into. Its the push back words you hear in your head ‘Who are you to write anything’. The wind of ‘I don’t have anything to share’ and the hail storm of ‘Who is going to read this anyway’.

Right at the place of movement, there is a resistance. Will I move forward or will the wind push me back into nothingness.

For mental health, there is a resistance

To every moving forward in life, there will be the sensation of a push back.

Those winds that strike us every day can eventually wear us down. Like an autumn leaf losing its grip on the tree, it floats away and is lost.

Many of the readers of this blog have at times faced hurricanes. The stress load wind storm was too much for them and it crashed them to the ground.

Then someone minimized the storm you faced. Given so-called ‘wise advice’ after the tree had been torn from the ground. And now, with the roots ripped out from under you, any little breeze can echo storm warnings.

So many times I want to reach out and say a few words.

You’re doing OKGood enough is good enoughMillimeters matterWe rebuild togetherWe do it at your paceWe talk about the resistance

Religion annoys me

I get annoyed and saddened when people consider me as being religious.

What I hear them saying is that I am one of those ‘God followers’ who follows all the rules. That religion is all about rules and regulations, having a set of behaviors that you must do. Going to Church on Sunday, reading your Bible, etc.

Yet, in terms of following rules, I think every one of us has a religion we follow. A set of rules and beliefs we adhere to. Codes, ethics, and standards are found everywhere, not just in organized religious ‘church’ contexts. Your workplace has a religion to it, so does your sports club.

Relationship excites me

When Jesus sat down in ‘Church’ with his dirt under the toenails followers he said these words.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus was one who knew all about resistance. He had it in supernaturally large quantities. Every day he was facing into some sort of hurricane.

If you want to get all fancy with words, he did it vicariously. That word is a wonderful life-giving word. To be vicarious is to do something on behalf of another.

I want a relationship with someone who has been there done that. I don’t want a religion with them.

Jesus has broken the wind, like the bow of a ship breaking through the water. We can ride in behind knowing that he has and is going in front of us.

Can I sit with you?

Many many people simply need to know that they are not alone. That’s all that is required.

To have someone say to them that they are doing okay. To not have any heavy burdens or expectations laid on them. To be graced with grace.

Can you do this for someone you know?

 

Mental Health is ... understanding the resistance you face and going through it with someone else. You're not alone in what you face.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Deep happiness is conditional – it doesn’t simply happen. Success in mental/emotional health must be worked at. D. Riddell
  • Something wonderful and beautiful and resilient is within us that no abuse, rejection, or failure can ever destroy. I want us to focus on that. Larry Crabb
  • Comfort is the absence of tension; growth requires a swim in murky, dangerous waters. Dan Allender
  • We are wired to grow, and all growth stretches us beyond our comfort level. Dan Allender
Questions to answer
  1. What does the word ‘resistance’ mean to you?
  2. What are the winds pushing against your movement forward?
  3. Who is saying to you ‘You’re doing OK’ and who are you saying this to?
Further reading

 

Image cc: KARTIK GADA

May 07, 2020
Stress, Jenga and Washing the Dishes
09:00

We think our lives have a strength to them, but remove a few Jenga pegs, experience a shock, and we can easily topple to the stress. So we build with each other and find new resilience. 

A couple of mornings ago, my son said ‘Nice Jenga Dad.’ I was puzzled, for a moment then I realized he was talking about my dishwashing Jenga.

Jenga is a stacking game using perfectly shaped wooden blocks. Then one by one, a peg is removed and placed on the top of the tower until it topples over. It’s a game of skill and engineering.

Since the kids were little, we generally wash the dishes and stack them in the dish rack to be put away the next morning.

Now some of those dishwashing Jenga stackings can be mighty impressive. Its an art form to squeeze in a pot or two. Chopsticks can be poked in anywhere, but a large serving platter requires courage, wisdom, and a certain level of creativity.

Fortunately, where we live, we don’t have earthquakes or many large trucks passing by. So the Jenga stays secure.

Your Jenga

We all have a Jenga—a way we stack the various parts of our lives.

The pegs might be who cooks the meals, washes the dishes, pays the bills. What route you take to work. When you clean your teeth, wash your clothes and the way you stack your groceries. You have preferences, likes, dislikes.

Relationship stress with other Jengas also plays a part. How secure, or insecure, those Jengas nearest to you impacts you (pun intended!).

You stack it all up, and there is your daily/ weekly life. Mostly it’s pretty secure. It can stand a bit of a wobble, a slight knock here and there.

But under pressure

But under pressure, one’s Jenga can take a topple.

I once knew a man, John, whose life Jenga at one stage was a pile of psychotic pegs thrown about in an Inpatient Mental Health Unit.

He had been going well in life. Wife, kids, job, and supportive church life. Loved and respected by all. Sure there were times when he had some thoughts and ideas that seemed to be a bit out of the normal. His wife had some concerns, but then things got back to normal.

Then he lost his job. He got made redundant and found he wasn’t needed anymore. The fragile Jenga began to move.

It swung, swayed, and eventually crashed. He started to lose sleep. He walked and paced. His sentences didn’t seem to make sense, but he thought he was perfectly OK.

‘Nothing wrong with me,’ he said with grandiose gestures, but there was, and everyone could see it.

He was unwell.

It could happen to you.

We like to think we are invincible, that we can handle anything that comes our way. WRONG.

We are all particulates of clay. Our Jenga isn’t perfect, and everyone reacts to stress in different ways.

For some, when placed under a huge stress load, it might be high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, headaches. For others, it could be sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, and even psychotic breaks.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we are also fragile in our clay.

Knowing your Jenga

If I was to sit down with you and a pile of Jenga pegs, what words about you would you write on each peg.

    • Job
    • Relationships
    • Finance
    • Faith
    • Family

Now, let’s break those categories down even further.

The pegs become

    • Work goals
    • Relationship with boss
    • The stress of getting to work
    • Worry about a daughter and her boyfriend
    • Payment of power bill

and many other pegs.

As you see, the tower grows higher and higher and increasingly fragile. For the most part, you have it all together. Life is good, it’s manageable. But then a knock, a wind, a brush with someone else’s fragile Jenga, and you begin to wobble.

A severe enough shake, such as the death of a loved one or a loss of a job, and the tower can shake violently and even crash.

It’s then that the tower, with the help of others, has to be rebuilt. We pick up the pieces, examine them, and craft them into the new rebuild.

It’s an ‘And next to them’ project.

Nehemiah and the Jenga builders

‘Nehemiah and the Jenga Builders’ sounds like an 80’s rock band, doesn’t it, but they are more a recovery group.

In my book ‘Broken to built,’ I share devotionals about how an entire city rebuilt their Jenga walls. It’s the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

Next to them Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. 10 Next to them Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house; and next to him Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs. Nehemiah 3:9,10

It was a Jenga wall recovery movement of thousands of ‘Next to them’ relationships.

Who are you ‘next to.’

Every one of us is standing next to someone’s Jenga and they next to ours.

Are we helping them to be secure? Are we working on knowing ourselves and our vulnerabilities to stress? Do we have good strategies in place for reaching out and getting help when it’s needed?

Our mental health is probably more fragile than we would like to admit to, so we need to build ‘and next to them’ relationships that foster resilience for when the storms come.

John, with the help of others, recovered and rebuilt his Jenga. He now had a more honest and grounded reality in his life. He understood his vulnerabilities and accepted them. His faith was less ‘Woo woo’ and more earthy and honest. He had to review many of his beliefs about God and faith. As he did, he began to become more balanced, stable, and secure.

 

Mental Health is ... knowing your Jenga and the Jenga of others. How can you build a strong structure?CLICK TO TWEET

We think our lives have a strength to them, but remove a few Jenga pegs, experience a shock, and we can easily topple to the stress. So we build with each other and find new resilience.

Quotes to consider
  • Assumptions are what make the world go round, but they can also create hell-on-earth until they are exposed and carefully examined. D. Riddell
  • Strength is not the absence of vulnerability. Strength is knowing what your weaknesses are and working with them. Terrence Real
  • The more you know yourself, the more patience you have for what you see in others. Erik Erikson
Questions to answer
  1. What are various Jenga pegs in your life?
  2. Where are you vulnerable?
  3. Some structures need to be broken down in order to be rebuilt. Think of an example where this has happened for you?
Further reading

A Particulate of Clay takes on COVID-19

Apr 29, 2020
I’m Never Going to Trust my Heart to You Because …
10:59

We open the heart and then find our trust is broken, but trust is fragile at the best of times, so we are wisely careful with the gift.

It’s those secret little internal vows we make that can cause so much damage.

As I wrote some words upon a whiteboard, I could see her affirm what I was writing. ‘I’m never going to trust again’.

She had opened her heart to someone, and it had got broken badly. She had trusted someone, shared the deep stuff, and now that part of her was locked in a coffin of her own making and was nailed down tight. A vow had been made.

The thing is that this exposure wasn’t the first time.

Many times as a child, she had reached out in vulnerability only to have her hands slapped. Every time this happened, she formed a belief that this world isn’t safe to venture one’s heart into. The vow was repeated.

There are secrets we all carry. Heart stuff that we don’t tell anyone, especially not those closest to us. There is too much at stake. We have a recurring question.

‘If you knew me, would you love me.’

An internal vow is made, and that vow is repeated over and over again by that small inner child within us.

We don’t go out to play because its easier and safer to stay inside, where it’s familiar and has controlled sterility to it. But locked rooms become stuffy. There’s no fresh air flowing in.

We want and need fresh air to flow into our hearts, but the vows keep the windows shut. We socially isolate ourselves in our self made bubbles.

We want to die, and the desire is granted. Something within dies because we were always meant to receive something of life from someone else.

Post Eden

In this post perfect world (Eden), we still have the lingering wafts of complete intimacy (in-to-me-see). We still have that desire and longing for love and to be known. But it’s no longer a world without weeds. Thorns jag us seemingly every time.

People use and abuse. They don’t know how to engage with something so fragile as a heart. Our subconscious gets triggered by ghostly echoes of a former time and place. It happens so quickly and powerfully that everything runs into it. We lock down and lock-in.

Trust is a fragile gift. We begin to trust someone, and so we open ourselves to being known. We feel held, and a sense of love begins to grow. A question forms around opening yourself further, sharing more of the deeper stuff?

To be held

‘I just want to be held’ were the heart-wrenching words they said.

Yes, on one level, they wanted a physical embrace, but more so, they were wanting to held at a heart level.

Not everyone knows how to hold. Not everyone is equipped. Most people don’t know what to do and how to respond to the naked exposure of another’s soul. They want to fix, problem solve, spiritualize, and slap band-aids on the pain.

Not many people know how to sit in Shiva anymore.

Shiva (Hebrew: שִׁבְעָה, literally “seven”) is the week-long mourning period in Judaism for first-degree relatives. Shiva embraces a time when individuals discuss their loss and accept the comfort of others. Wikipedia

We all have a loss in our lives. It may not be related to physical death, but it might be the loss of a dream, a relationship, a career, an innocence, an intimacy so desired.

To sit in Shiva doesn’t have to be about loss at all. It’s about listening for the dirt gathered under the toenails of living in an outcast world.

I’m never going to trust my heart to you because …

How would you answer that question? Why do you find trust difficult?

You’re not alone, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) holds a part of themselves within themselves where no one can see.

One of my favorite writers about inclusion is Miroslav Volv, who I think captures the spirit of Shiva in this passage.

‘An embrace involves always a double movement of opening and closing. I open my arms to create space in myself for the other.

The open arms are a sign of discontent at being myself only and of desire to include the other.

They are an invitation to the others to come in and feel at home with me, to belong to me.

In an embrace I also close my arms around the others – not tightly, so as to crush and assimilate them forcefully into myself, for that would not be an embrace but a concealed power-act of exclusion; but gently, so as to tell them that I do not want to be without them in their otherness.

I want them in their openness.

I want them to remain independent and true to their genuine selves, to maintain their identity and as such become part of me so that they can enrich me with what they have and I do not’. Judith M Gundry-Volf, Miroslav Volf. A spacious heart: essays on identity and belonging. (Trinity Press International, 1997, 58-59.)

How to find someone to trust

In grounded reality, you are probably not going to find someone perfect in trust. The best-case scenario is that you’re going to find a flawed image bearer that is honest with their trust issues.

Maybe as you become a Shiva trust bearer, you will find someone who can be that to you.

The one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. Galatians 6:7 The Message

I have found that when I sow tomatoes, I reap tomatoes. As I grow in my ability to be trustworthy to others, I find others who I sense that I can trust.

Trust is fragile at the best of times, so we are wisely careful with the gift.

 

Mental Health ... knowing who to trust and who not to. It takes time and wisdomCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • The most powerful thing we can do to help someone change is to offer them a rich taste of God’s incredible goodness. Larry Crabb
  • Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech. Parker J. Palmer.
  • Handicapped people have a special gift to bring you closer to the heart of God. Their poverty reveals the heart. They teach me that human beings distinguish themselves from the rest of creation not so much by the mind as by the heart. The ability to give and receive love is what makes us human. Henri Nouwen – Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life
  • Only love can soften a hard heart. Only love can renew trust after it has been shattered. Only love can inspire acts of genuine self-sacrifice. Only love can free us from the tyrannizing effects of fear. David G. Benner
  • God is no stranger to the process of repairing damaged relationships. His trust has been broken many times by those he loves. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud 
Questions to answer
  1. What makes a person trustworthy?
  2. What rebuilds trust after it has been broken?
  3. Answer the question, ‘I’m never going to trust my heart to you because …’
Further reading

Please. No Fixing, Advising, Saving or Straightening Out

Why I need to be Inadequate

Barry Pearman

Image cc: JJ Jordan

Apr 17, 2020
How to Build an Inner ‘Bulldog’ Resilience for your Mental Health
09:34

Storms of life can hit hard against our mental health, but we can learn to stand firm and even advance. Developing resilience is a practice of strengthing your inner Bulldog.

It was quite something as I watched this little goat headbutt a Bulldog. Repeatedly it launched itself at the Bulldog, but the dog stayed firm, resilient, and even advanced into the storm.

To me, it spoke of resilience in the face of adversity.

What is resilience?

Resilience is one of those buzzwords that is popular in Mental Health.

Psychological resilience is the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses “mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors” Wikipedia

For this post, it’s the ability to be a bulldog in the face of whatever stressor you are facing.

Recently I had a goat try and take me out. It was an old familiar shame pathway that I have been hit by many times, but I could see it and knew what to do.

I talked about the problem out and found my inner Bulldog strengthening its hind legs. I advanced, and the shame retreated.

Building the Bulldog
  1. Know yourselfYou’re not someone else. You are you!What is your reality? We are all uniquely and wonderfully made. Every one of us is different, and we all have our vulnerabilities.I take some medication for my depression.If I feel my depression is getting worse or that I am experiencing Early Warning Signs, then part of my Bulldog wisdom is to talk about my mental health with my Doctor.I hold no shame regarding my taking of medication. My body seems to need it, and that’s ok.
  2. Work out of your restI believe many of us have an attitude about work and rest that is kind of mixed up. We see rest as the reward for work. ‘I’ve done enough, so now I can have a rest.’The day begins, for many, at sunrise, and sleep is what is needed to recover. I would like you to consider flipping this around.That the day begins at sunset when you go to sleep, and that you work out of your rest.That you have one day a week for solid Bulldog resting. On this day, you completely rest. You plan so that on that day you don’t even have to cook a meal.It’s called a Sabbath, and its what the Jews practice. A ceasing to restore and build resilience.
  3. Do what you canIn our head butting world, you are going to come up against lots of experiences and challenges that you can’t do much about.I can’t solve other’s problems for them, and I don’t want to rescue people from experiences that they need to learn from. But there are somethings that I do have power over so in these I will act.Knowing what I can do and what I can’t empowers me to be able to act and to move forward.
  4. Insights book/ journalSomething a counselor suggested for me to do to build my inner Bulldog was to have a small book in which I wrote by hand little self reminders and insights. In my little book, I have encouragements, reminders to tell myself.My mother had hers written on the front inner sleeve of her Bible.Here are some of mine.What I focus on gets me. Focus on the negatives/ challenges will always take me down. Focus on the positives/ good things will always give me hope.The subconscious can be reprogrammed through cognitive assessments.A feeling of hopelessness, no matter how strong, is an echo and perception from the past and is not how things really are. 

     

    The point is to have this little book readily accessible for those much needed quick reminders of truth. What worked then will more than likely work again.

  5. Millimeter stepsNotice that the Bulldog didn’t rush at the goat?Instead, he marched a few small steps ahead, stood his ground, and waited for the next attack. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your brain’s neural pathways weren’t either.Building resilience is a millimeter ministry of you creating and maintaining neural pathways that, over time, will become superhighway.New behaviors replace old, and they become so familiar that they are automatic.
  6. Dig in deep dailyCreate a time every day where you dig in deep to what fills your soul. It may be reading your Bible, listening to music, being still, meditating, pondering over poetry, or writing your heart into a journal.When you feed the inner Bulldog, it grows muscle for the next storm.
  7. Be a friendWe need others, and they need us. We can listen to the storms they are facing and how their inner Bulldog is doing.I glean so much strength myself when I see others facing into there goats. It tells me that I can do it too.I praise their inner Bulldogishness.I say, ‘Go get hmm boy/girl.’Tails twitch, tongues hang out, and bellies are exposed for a playful scratch.

Storms of life can hit hard against our mental health, but we can learn to stand firm and even advance. Developing resilience is a practice of strengthing your inner Bulldog.

 

Mental Health is ... built by nurturing your inner bulldog resilience.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. Margaret Thatcher
  • Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. Nelson Mandela
  • I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it. Maya Angelou
  • Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems. Gever Tulley
  • Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. Nelson Mandela
Questions to answer
  1. What are the ‘little goats’ that keep trying to break you down?
  2. What does a ‘millimeter’ step forward look like for you in building resilience?
  3. How much does rest factor in your life and your resilience to tough times?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Sébastien LAVALAYE

Apr 13, 2020
A Particulate of Clay takes on COVID-19
09:35

At times we can seem so small and vulnerable like a speck of clay, but joined together, we can take on the challenges such as COVID 19. Let’s bind together for our Mental Health.

‘Particulate’ is an interesting word. It refers to a minute separate particle. In a cup of flour, the particulates would be every little particle of flour, different of itself but essential in the whole.

Back in the eighties, I studied Agriculture, and one of the classes I took was soil science. We studied rocks and minerals, silt, sand, and clay. Out of the soil come the very foundations of our existence. ‘Healthy soil = healthy food = healthy people’ was the 1942 mantra of J.I. Rodale

A particulate of clay

I learned that clay is quite different from sand and silt.

First of all, a particulate of clay, the smallest particle, is super tiny.

Relative-size-of-sand-silt-and-clay-particles

The second aspect of clay is its unique shape. It’s flat, like a dinner plate or a piece of paper.

Its size and shape give clay its strength. All those plate-like surfaces can sit on top of each other, create friction, and bind themselves together.

Whereas the ball-like shape of silt and sand means that they have less surface contact with each other. So they can roll and not bind. Water passes through the gaps, hence silty and sandy soils are regarded as free-draining soils.

Particulates of clay bind themselves together to form the coffee cup you’re holding, the foundations of a bridge you’re walking on, and the bricks surrounding your home.

Clay is powerful, yet it also tiny.

A pinch of clay

When I was a pastor, I was invited into many clay awareness moments.

A loved one had died, and people were brought to the reality of their mortality. That the body is fragile and a container. With words such as ‘dust to dust, ashes to ashes’ I accompanied people into an awareness of our grounded earthy existence.

There is a character in the Bible by the name of Job. His story is one of earthy mortality. He loses health, wealth, family. It was like a ‘cosmic courtroom drama’ (Mike Mason) being played out over his life.

In his clay, he speaks his existence and ours.

Behold, I am toward God as you are;I too was pinched off from a piece of clay.  Job 33:6

Mental health and clay

In talking with those who have come to an awareness of mental illness, the ones who make the most progress in their recovery are those who fully embrace fragility.

Not in a victim mode or a ‘Woah is me’ mindset, but in a healthy coming to terms with the truth.

They recognize that their bodies, the clay, can only take so much pressure/ stress and that eventually, the cup will break. The depression will swamp over; the psychosis will voice itself; the anxiety will shake its claw.

Those who recover and build resilience to future earthquakes are ones who embrace their earthiness. They know the limits of the body. They become aware of the need for sleep, exercise, nutrition.

Clay in the face of COVID

As I write this, the world is in the torment of a pandemic. COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the clay of our lives. It is no respecter of man.

From Kings and Queens, Presidents, and Prime Ministers to the homeless and elderly, it is on a death march.

People are becoming aware that they are vulnerable to something they can’t see, feel, and touch. That something so small  (smallest particles are 0.06 microns, and the largest are 0.14 microns) can destroy us all.

That we are not gods, we have limited power, and we are vulnerable.

However, there is something we can do, and it’s found in the shape of clay.

Bind us together

That plate-like structure of a particulate of clay gives us the ability to be strong.

The power of clay is that unified it is strong. Sand and silt are like freewheeling rolling balls of individuality. Clay binds together.

We face a common enemy, and a common enemy needs a common approach.

So we all self-isolate. We stay in our isolation bubbles, wash our hands, and we pray that the God of clay who, with incarnational presence, got dirt in toenails, will help us all.

We may not be able to have our usual face to face, clay to clay conversations, but we can still connect online, on the phone, or singing from the balcony. There is a common humanity we need to share in.

On the curbside

Yesterday I took our rubbish up to the curb to be collected. A mother and her daughter were walking past on the other side of the road. The road was very quiet because of the lockdown.

I greeted them with a cheery and happy hello.

They responded with equal friendliness. Then they asked me if I was living alone. I was puzzled by this response but told them that there were four others living in my bubble with me.

Then I realized that they thought that I was being super friendly because I hadn’t seen anyone for some time. Lonely people, I have found, often talk a lot when given the opportunity.

I then explained that I like to be friendly, and it’s not every day these days that you can have a chat with a total stranger. We had a brief conversation, and then they continued in their walk.

That is what clay particulate joining with clay particulate looks like. Its a conversation across the balconies, an encouraging word to stay healthy, a video chat with a friend across the other side of the world.

Whatever you can safely do to connect with the clay of another will help.

 

Mental health is ... coming to terms with our clay and the clay of others.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • The race of mankind would perish did they cease to aid each other. We cannot exist without mutual help. Walter Scott
  • Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:” What! You too? I thought I was the only one. C.S. Lewis
Questions to answer
  1. How vulnerable are you feeling at the moment as a particulate of clay?
  2. How can you bind with another particulate of clay?
  3. What would it be like to reach out to a total stranger in your isolated neighborhood today?
Further reading

and next to them

What the World needs now is Courage and Compassion

Love heals. Indifference Kills. What do you most need?

Would you Know my TRUE Name

 

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Austin Ban

Apr 01, 2020
What the World needs now is Courage and Compassion
08:12

It’s an isolated world, well, sort of, but it’s one that needs courage and compassion if we are going to create connection.

Today as I write this, is it our first day of mandatory nationwide lockdown in New Zealand due to the spread of the Corona Virus. People have been told to stay at home. There is an eerie quietness to where we live. The motorway a few kilometers provides no hum.

Two words keep coming to my thinking: courage and compassion.

Courage

I think of all those who hold positions of authority in our world. The courageous decisions they have had to take. Closing borders, shutting down economies, enforcing lockdowns. Some of the leadership decisions were not made in time; some decisions were made well.

There is also the courage required in you and me in our everyday lives. We face the issue, and we do the right thing. We do the best we can.

The word courage has its roots in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart.”

People all over the world may well be losing heart at the moment, losing their sense of courage. Seeing the overwhelming horror of this pandemic can cause a degradation of the soul—a whittling away of our life.

Courage is needed by all to reach out to our neighbor and say you’re not alone.

Compassion

We’re not going to get everything right. Somethings we do in this world war will be successful others will fail. Will we be compassionate towards the leaders who will get it wrong?

Will you be compassionate towards yourself in this time of crisis.

Self-compassion absorbs the failures and forgives the self. It says you’re doing ok and that you’re loved.

Compassion is the venue where we can sit with each other and say you’re not alone.

Social isolation in a time of loneliness

About eight years ago, I used to do door-to-surveying for a research company. I was given a specific neighborhood and told to survey every third house.

There were also many other rules to my surveying to make sure I got a very accurate representation of the people living in the neighborhood. The one thing that surprised me the most was the number of people living by themselves.

In the latest census, New Zealand has  405,000 people living by themselves.

Now add in the fact that due to the pandemic, you can’t have your regular social activities where you can mix and mingle, and you’re heading towards more anxiety and depression.

We need each other for good mental health. We were never meant to be alone. We may get through this through physical isolation, but we will be poorer and sicker if we don’t have a social connection.

Connection needs courage and compassion

In my gardening business, I work for many people who live by themselves. Age, illness, disability all in some way contribute to their need for someone to come and prune, weed, and tidy.

So I am going to keep in connection with them. I have compassion for their potential social isolation and the courage they will need to face into this. I’m going to ring them and have a chat.

Who in your social network needs you to connect with them?

It could be a phone call, an email, a meeting over the internet. I recently sent out an offer (totally free) to all my email subscribers to have a chat or video call with me on the internet. If you want to chat, email me. barry@turningthepage.info

It’s been so good to meet many of them for the first time. For me to get to know them and their situation. They learn a bit more about me too!

Here’s the challenge

Who, in your life, needs your connection? It might be the stranger, the neighbor, the friend, and even the enemy.

Remember, you’re not there to necessarily solve their problems. What most people want is to know someone is there for them.

Quotes to consider
  • Courage is like—it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging. Mary Daly
  • It takes courage to respond to the invitation to share one’s self with another person. David G. Benner
  • Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ”What! You too? I thought I was the only one. C.S. Lewis 
  • Loneliness isn’t the physical absence of other people it’s the sense that you’re not sharing anything that matters with anyone else. Johann Hari  
  • To end loneliness, you need other people—plus something else. You also need to feel you are sharing something with the other person, or the group, that is meaningful to both of you. You have to be in it together—and “it” can be anything that you both think has meaning and value. Johann Hari
  • Compassion for yourself is where you start when things are tough, not where you stop. Rick Hanson
  • Compassion means entering the suffering of another in order to lead the way out.  Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
Questions to answer
  1. What can we do in this time of social isolation to enable a safe social connection?
  2. Who are you being prompted to get in touch with?
  3. How are you compassionate to yourself in these stressful times?
Further reading

 

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Toa Heftiba

 
Apr 01, 2020
Doing Your Best to Live at Peace with Everyone
08:09

Some people can be difficult to live at peace with. To live peaceably and in harmony requires each person to do the work on themselves.

Some people are like bottomless holes. You give and give, and they take and take.  They raise a storm, and you’re expected to bring peace.

Instead of taking self-responsibility, they blame and shame. They make others a scapegoat for their failings.

I know of someone who would do everything they could to try and please their angry husband, but nothing seemed to satisfy. It was an endless giving out. 

Eventually, she realized that nothing she did would bring perfect peace and harmony. That he was responsible for his own life and the war raging within himself. 

Live at peace

So often we think we need to serve others to the point of sacrifice. That it’s our job to fix other’s problems. That we are to ‘turn the other cheek,’ ‘go the extra mile,’ and give them the shirt of our back

Living at peace with some people is near impossible because some people are difficult and they are not at peace within themselves.

Whatever you do, it won’t be enough.

For harmony to exist, all parties need to be in tune. 

Tuning the guitar

Once I was playing my guitar with a group of others, and someone said to me, ‘I think you’re out of tune.’

I played a chord, and sure enough, one of my strings was not in perfect pitch. It was out of tune. That single string was destroying the beauty of the music.

I quickly tuned the string and got back to the music.

If you’re an experienced musician, you can quickly tell if someone is out of tune.

All the other strings may be at the right pitch, but if one string is not at the correct tension, at the perfect pitch, then it will ruin the music. There will be no beautiful music. No harmony.

If guitar strings were people, they might well say to that out of tune string ‘You’re out of tune, and you need to do something about it.’

You cant tune yourself, but in submission, to God, the strings can be tightened or loosened. Once it is in perfect pitch, then beautiful harmonious music can be played and enjoyed by all.

As far as it depends on you

Paul, in Romans 12, writes these words.

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18

You can only do so much to live peaceably with others. They need to do their bit too. They need to be willing to be tuned by God.

You may love them deeply and want to make their life better, but their life is their responsibility.

You can only do so much. You can’t meet their every need.

It may not even be possible to live peaceably with some. Paul points to this when he says, ‘If it is possible.’ Some people are going to remain ‘out of tune.’

Living with ‘out of tune’ people
  1. Keep in-tune yourselfRecognize that you also are out of tune in some way much of the time, so you need to submit your life routinely to God for tuning. By doing so, you are leading by example.
  2. Find a corner of a rooftopAt times that difficult person can wear down on you, like a dripping tap, so much so that you need a physical place of relief.Proverbs tells us that it is ‘Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.’ Proverbs 21:9Find a place where you can recover and pray.
  3. Don’t rescueThere are natural consequences for bad behavior. What you sow you reap. Don’t rescue people from the mess they have created.If you rescue them, how will they learn?
  4. Serenity prayerPray the serenity prayer regularly.God, grant me the serenityto accept the things I cannot change,the courage to change the things I can,and the wisdom to know the difference.
  5. BoundariesGrow in internal strength where you can express your boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not.Learn about the lines of love and respect.
  6. Detach and let them goThere are times we need to let the difficult person go. Much like the father did with his difficult prodigal son, he let him follow his folly.
  7. Leave the miracles up to GodGod is in hot pursuit of your difficult person. The beautiful poem ‘The Hound of Heaven’ speaks to this loving pursuit.You can only do what you can do, leave the miracles up to God.

We all have difficult people in our lives, but with prayer, patience, and staying in the zone of what we can do, we can find a way through.

 

Mental Health is ... learning what is your control and what is notCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Before you speak of peace, you must first have it in your heart. St. Francis of Assisi
  • Surrendering the outcomes is making peace with our lack of control over how people respond to us and our work. Rob Bell
  • Acceptance doesn’t mean complacency or giving up. We can accept something while at the same time trying to make it better. Rick Hanson
  • There is no intimacy without honesty. Genuine love does not want ‘peace at any price,’ but will ‘rock the boat’ when honesty is being compromised. D. Riddell
  • We get in trouble whenever we forget that God never gave us the power or the right to change anyone.  That is His job! Michael Liimatta
Questions to answer
  1. Who are you trying to live at peace with?
  2. Where does responsibility for the other start and end?
  3. How do you keep yourself in tune?
Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Roberta Sorge    Uriel Soberanes

Mar 19, 2020
Love heals. Indifference Kills. What do you most need?
14:30

What your neighbor needs now is love but they often encounter indifference. We need to find a way to listen to them and tell them they are loved.

I wonder at times that under depression and anxiety, there is a deep unmet need for love. That many are love-starved and are unaware of it.

There are a lot of lonely people; maybe you’re one of them. I want to tell you that you are loved, but ‘Love’, I believe, is the most dangerous word in the world.

When heard, it can be twisted into all sorts of meanings and intentions that were never meant. Romanticized, sexualized, it can take on a life of its own.

I love my wife, my family, and my friends. Sounds right and proper, but what about saying ‘You are loved’ to someone who is struggling with depression or anxiety. Someone is psychotic?

Would they hear it within the intention that you are seeking to speak from?

Everyone needs to know they are loved.

You are loved because

Why are you loved?

That’s quite a profound question, and for many people, they may dispute that they are loved at all.

They have tied love into being the result of a performance.

When they do these certain activities or behaviors, then they will be loved. If they look a certain way, say the right words, cook the perfect meal, earn a certain amount of money, then they will be loved. If they follow the rules then they will experience love.

They put the power of hoped-for love into other’s hands. Always risky and fraught with potential manipulation and servitude.

You are loved because you are you.

Today you are You, that is truer than true.There is no one alive who is Youer than You. Dr. Seuss

I’m not indifferent to you

What would be the perfect behavior of love? How would you know 100% that you are loved?

I think it would be that you feel that you have been genuinely listened to. That you are acknowledged and known.  That the lover, the one who is listening, has not been indifferent in any way to your heart.

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. Elie Wiesel

Indifference kills relationship.

It’s those words of ‘whatever’, ‘I don’t care’, ‘tell that to someone who cares’, ‘can’t be bothered’ that will shoot the already wounded.

The greatest lover of all time, Jesus, was never indifferent to the needs of those whom others were indifferent to.

He stepped into the world of shame and failure and had love feasts with the outcasts. Those on the sideline and not in the game. Those discarded and invalidated by others.

As I write this, I keep thinking of a picture by David Hayward and the story it comes from.

It comes from the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. John 8:1-11  She was about to be stoned for supposed crimes. Can you imagine the terror and anxiety flooding her?

Love reached out and saturated her life.

Taping into love

For every broken hurting person, I would like them to hear and know that they are loved.

I wonder what would happen if when we exchanged words of farewell such as ‘Bye,’ we instead said the words ‘You are loved’.

Perhaps it would cause people to think about the vast reservoir of love that is contained around them at all times.

This week as I write, it has been one year since the tragic killings in Christchurch. A man stormed into two Christchurch mosques and with a semi automatic rifle slaughtered men, women, and children.

Were we indifferent to the pain?

No, love flooded and burst out all around this broken community. Love conquered hate. Indifference never got a look in.

Around every one of us, and especially around you, is a vast untameable lake of love, and it needs to be taped into.

The Bible may tell us so

As a child, I learned that I was loved by Jesus because ‘The Bible tells me so’.

That’s a left-brained, logic-based, cold fish approach to knowing something.

I want to know that love with the depth of experiential awareness.

Full emotional awareness like being held and embraced in the depth of a storm. Having a waterfall of powerful flowing love washing and pounding against me.

I can’t experience that love without you, and you can’t experience it without me.

There has to be a crossing over the divide of rugged independence and self-reliance to the truth of interdependence.

Listening for love in all the right places

Why does it have to take a funeral before people come and express their gratitude and love for someone?

Does it have to be mass murder before the community says we love?

I want to know I am loved and have worth beyond my role, my functionality, and strength or beauty. Can you tell me I am loved?

Someone you are going to meet today needs to hear that they are loved. Don’t be indifferent to Spirit (Holy) when the prompt comes.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. C.S. Lewis

I’m bankrupt without love.Love never gives up.Love cares more for others than for self.Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.Love doesn’t strut,Doesn’t have a swelled head,Doesn’t force itself on others,Isn’t always “me first,”Doesn’t fly off the handle,Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,Doesn’t revel when others grovel,Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,Puts up with anything,Trusts God always,Always looks for the best,Never looks back,But keeps going to the end.Love never dies.1 Corinthians 13:4-7

  Mental Health is ... knowing you are loved and making sure others know they are loved tooCLICK TO TWEET Quotes to consider
  • The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies.To be in the window and watch people being sent to concentration camps or being attacked in the street and do nothing, that’s being dead. Elie Wiesel
  • Some people care too much. I think it’s called love. A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Where there is great love there is always miracles. Willa Cather
  • Love acts like a giant magnet that pulls out of us, like iron filings, every recorded injury, every scar. Terrence Real
  • He [Jesus] can only reach as far as you and I are willing to go.  Anna Dimmel – I went to a Strip Club
    • There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made know through Jesus Christ. Pascal
    Questions to consider
  1. What do you think would happen if we regularly told others ‘You are loved’?
  2. In your community, who needs to hear that they are loved?
  3. How much does isolation and unawareness of love play into a person’s depression or anxiety?
Further reading

Your Failures in Life Need Love

God’s Love can Heal a Heart Full of Anxiety

To the Power of Being Known

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Gage Walker

Mar 12, 2020
When the Confessor Goes Rogue
14:49

We need to share the pain of life with someone, but what happens when the confessor, the one we are exposing our heart to, goes rogue. We need to be careful with who we share our heart with.

What they thought was being said in private was now being passed around like appetizers at a dinner party. Everyone had a munch and nibble, then passed the plate on for another’s perusal.

They were locked down now. Having exposed their heart, they had got hurt and had made a vow never to be open again.

To love at all is to be vulnerable.Love anything, and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal.Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements.Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

But something had died within them. It was a willingness to trust and, therefore, to know love and give love. They allowed others to come only as close as they felt safe. Functionality, not intimacy.

All because the person they confided with couldn’t hold their pain,  confusion, and mystery. The confessor may have had the occupation where confidentiality was paramount, but they weren’t the person to hold or contain others.

Some observations from a hurt healer.

1. Being a Confessor  is not everyone’s calling  

We want everyone to be safe containers, ones that don’t leak, but in reality, not everyone is equipped to cope. I think it’s a calling, a specialty known to only a few.

Some aspects of being safe for others can be learned, but for the most, I believe its a gift, even a spiritual gift given by God and enabled and sustained by Spirit (Holy).

I think I have it because it seems that people seem to open up to me. They download, and it doesn’t seem to stick emotionally to me. The things I have heard would possibly scar and traumatize others.

I am always amazed and grateful for counselors, therapists, pastors, and others who have been equipped to know how to contain others’ pain. To let others vomit out their heart and know what to do with it themselves.

If you’re in a role, such as a pastor, and you can’t cope with the vomit, then please find someone who can. It’s not everyone’s calling to hear the deep pain. Learn how to politely and gently support to the degree that you can,

2. Everyone needs a safe confessor

When the pain gets locked up in the soul, it doesn’t make good wine. It makes vinegar. Acid and acrid, the pain eats away at life. Love is lost, and in that ‘airless coffin,’ the soul will suffocate itself.

There are pains we need to ‘get off our chest.’ Interesting little saying, isn’t it. To ‘get something off your chest.’ The chest holds the heart and the lungs. The organs that feed and sustain the flow of life in the body. When we have unshared pain, it can feel like a weight pressing down and constricting our ability to breathe and beat.

I am not sure who said it. It may have been Martin Luther, but I once heard that he said that the greatest loss from the reformation was the loss of the confessional box.

I’m not saying that having a confessional box in the way Roman Catholicism does is ideal, but to have normality to the act of safe confession may allow many of us to breathe easier and live lighter.

3. Forgiving the foolishness

I’ve shared with people some of my hurt and then felt betrayed by them. What was shared in private was told to others.

Then there are those that when we share something deep, it’s treated with disdain and mocking. They may minimize it and scoff.

Problem-solving is another tactic people use. ‘Let me tell you what to do’ when all you want is to be known.

Its foolishness and requires forgiveness. They don’t know what they are doing, and if they do know what they are doing and there is a sense of malicious intent to their actions, then double foolishness is going on.

I am continually brought back to what a wise old confessor told me to do. ‘Lay it at the foot of the cross’.

On the cross, Jesus doesn’t ask for vengeance. He asks for them to be forgiven in their foolishness. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

It seems like I have a well-worn path to that place. Whenever I feel the bile of hurt rise up, I ask for help to find my way there.

4. Not repeating the same mistake

It’s foolish to keep exposing your heart to unsafe people with the hope of getting a different response.

Yes, I know, in an ideal world others would be able to hear our heart and not go rogue with it, but it’s been a long time since we’ve left the garden (Garden of Eden). That place where nakedness was the norm and love flowed with unconstrained abandonment.

So we are careful with who we share both our darkness and our light with. Not everyone is safe, and not everyone is good. Everyone has an element of foolishness in them.

We test the waters. We watch and observe. There is a prayer for direction to the safe burden bearers. Negotiations take place, and we ask questions.

Trust is built up over time and through shaky experiences, and maybe, just maybe we find a safe confessor.

 

Mental Health is ... finding a safe person to be vulnerable to, and being that safe person to someone else.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Just because you forgive someone does not mean you must trust them – that has to be earned back again. David Riddell
  • Forgiveness is a choice. You choose not to be held hostage in the present to the injustices that occurred in the past. Shirley Glass
  • A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community
  • Opening up your soul to someone, letting them into your spirit, thoughts, fears, future, hopes, dreams… that is being naked.  Rob Bell
  • Forgiving is not a single event, but a gradual process of increasing compassion and reducing resentment. Shirley Glass
Questions to answer
  1. What would be the top qualities of a safe confessor?
  2. When have you truly felt listened to in a deeply safe context?
  3. Why is it that some people are good containers and others are not?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Clem Onojeghuo

Mar 04, 2020
Your Brain Needs to Rest Beside Still Waters
10:11

Our brains can be so busy that it can feel like a concussion, but we can help the brain recover by finding some still waters to rest next by.

When I wrote the first draft of this post, I was sitting next to a small stream. There wasn’t much water flowing through it because it is summer and we haven’t had a good rainfall for over 60 days.

But still, the trickle provided life to many. There were some Kokopu (a native New Zealand fish), some birds that would refresh and wash, insects sipping, and tree roots merging with the waters. The water was also being pumped out to beautiful gardens and orchards. Water troughs were being kept full for thirsty horses.

Now I was being replenished. I invited my self to be still and listen for the stillness of the flowing waters. Something outside of my control.

However, just 20 meters away from this little stream was a busy road. There were moments that all I could hear were cars and trucks carrying people to their day’s work, school, and busyness. Then quiet would return, and the sound of still waters would flow to my ears.

We need still waters

Do you have a place where you can listen to water?

Perhaps its a stream, or the lapping of waves on a beach. It could be a water fountain in a garden. I have seen a small water fountain in a waiting room and thought how relaxing it was to watch the movement and listen to the flow.

In Psalm 23 David the shepherd writes

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.    He makes me lie down in green pastures;he leads me beside still waters;    he restores my soul. Psalm 23: 1-3

David didn’t write ‘still water.’ ‘Still water’ can be dangerous water. A place where weed, algae, and all sorts of nasties can grow. A good shepherd would not allow his flock to drink from stagnant water.

David uses the word ‘waters’ implying a movement of molecules of water. There is a flow, even if it is unseen. Under the surface, there is a current. When it comes to an obstacle, it moves around and over.

The water flows over little rocks and pebbles and creates sound waves that reach out for ears to hear. There is a rhythm, a wave vibration, an unpredictability to the music.

Concussion recovery

Our brain is both strong and fragile. In sports such as Soccer/ Football, Grid Iron, Rugby, even my beloved Cricket, blows to the head can cause long term damage to the brain.

Then some suffer concussion through knocks and bumps. A fall, a car crash, a walking into a piece of timber on the back of a truck, which is what I did yesterday. Ouch and bruise and pain.

What about the concussion injuries on your soul and heart that you have experienced throughout your life?

I was reading an article the other day about concussion recovery. It gave five pieces of advice on how to rest your brain

1. Take time off work and/or school.2. Focus on one task at a time.3. Limit yourself to easy chores.4. Get in the passenger’s seat. (No driving)5. Relax with comfortable, simple hobbies.

They were encouraging the reader to avoid activities that required demanding mental processes, such as reaction time, memory, or multitasking. It was an invitation to sit by still waters.

Accessing the waters

I want to have more refreshing moments in my life where I can recover from the concussing effects of cell phone notifications, political debates, and being on the road above the stream.

I want to sit with the water of life.

Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!Anyone who believes in me may come and drink!Jesus John 7:37-39

Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever.The water I give will be an artesian spring within,gushing fountains of endless life. John 4:14

To get to that stream, I had to climb a fence, push through some trees, and find a patch in time to sit. There was intentionality in seeking the water.

What can you do?

I don’t know where you live. You might live in a place where accessing free-flowing water is quite easily achievable.

Perhaps you live in a place where it is dry and arid and flowing water is challenging to find. You might like to listen to stream from an App on your phone or get a small water fountain for your home.

I would encourage you to pursue listening to the still waters and allow them to flow around the circuity of your brain. You won’t be short-circuited.

 

Mental health is ... finding time to sit and rest by the still watersCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. Confessions by Augustine of Hippo
  • In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds. John of the Cross
  • The brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. Rick Hanson
Questions to consider
  1. Where are some ‘still waters’ nearby that you could go and be still?
  2. What is the resistance you are facing when you think about the idea of being quiet and listening to the trickle of water?
  3. What is the noisy traffic in your life that maybe concussing you?
Further reading

 

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Oscar Nilsson

Feb 26, 2020
Seven Observations of Long Haul Caregivers
11:28

Being a caregiver over a long period of time can be tough going, but there are some things that those on the long haul do well. We need to applaud the long haul caregiver.

There are some people that I want to stand and applaud.

I love the game of cricket and when a player has done exceptionally well the crowd will rise one by one and cheer their performance.

Kane Williamson 17 Test Centuries

The player may raise his bat in acknowledgment, but there is no theatrics of tearing off his shirt, doing cartwheels or any other self-aggrandizement.

After the applause, he takes his bat and faces the next ball.

Some of the people who read this blog are those that need a slow and deliberate clap of applause.

Well done, good and faithful servant.

They are the ones who have been on the long haul mission of caring for someone. It could be a spouse, parent, child, family member, a friend.

There may be a disability, an addiction, an illness. But over a long period of time have stuck close and carried at times a load that nobody ever sees.

It can be tough, unthankful work—a place of giving up sacrificially some of their dreams and desires for the sake of another.

Perhaps you know someone like this. It may even be you. What observations have you made? Email me with your comments.

Seven observations of long haul caregivers
  1. They have relationships with a few supportive othersWe can’t do life on our own. Long haul people have someone who they can connect with. It could be a group of other people who know what they are going through.A group such as Al-Anon for those supporting someone with an addiction to alcohol. It might be a group you find on Facebook.It will be someone somewhere where they won’t feel alone.Where they can both vent their frustrations and vacuum up encouragement and hope.

     

    God sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6

  2. They make a life for themselvesLong haul people have discovered that they need to have something they can call their own. It could be a hobby, enjoyment of music, a favorite author.It will be a place where they can go to that offers some relief, a ‘stepping away’ from the coal face of support.
  3. They know what is in their control and what is notLife will throw many challenges at the Long haul caregiver.People will make decisions that a caregiver has no control over.There is a ‘stepping aside’ from the emotional turmoil others can cause and a recognition many things are beyond one’s control.They focus on what they can control – themselves and how they will respond.
  4. They have lines of love and respect (boundaries)Long haul caregivers have come to know themselves well and know what is acceptable behavior and what is not.There is an ability to point out the consequences when a line is crossed and enforce it.They know that no one is perfect, but that expectations need to be negotiated with others.There is an ability to care for themselves by making clear the lines of love and respect.
  5. They recognize there is a bigger story going onThe life of a Long Haul caregiver can become so drawn into itself that it feels like the suction of a black hole.The needs of the other cavitate you into losing sight of something good and glorious. God delights in the service of others.There is a bigger story going on, and we, for the most part, are unaware of it.The invite is to perform to the best of your ability (not others) in this unfolding story.
  6. They do the inner workBitter or better.Long haul caregivers seem to fall somewhere on a spectrum of being bitter or better. The bitterness of having to do this, people not doing what they want, agencies are failing them, lost dreams, and hopes.The list can, and generally does, go on and on.Then some seem to have become better through the experience. Sure they recognize injustices and hurts, but they seem to have invited and allowed the struggle to do some inner work on themselves.

     

    This is a place where you learn about yourself.

    Much like how a pearl is grown within an oyster.

    ‘An irritating substance (like a piece of grit) enters the oyster, prompting the animal to start protecting itself. It does so by secreting a lustrous organic material known as nacre to encapsulate the irritant. Once the irritant has been covered with enough layers of nacre, it’s like the irritant never existed. In that nuisance’s place, a precious organic gem forms’.Source

  7. They have a compelling visionWe can so often get stuck in the difficulty of the day that we lose sight of the millimeter ministry, and that little things add up over time.At times I have written a letter for a person where I have asked Spirit to prompt me with words that might describe the person in a few years.It’s not a ‘you will have a husband, a dream house, etc.’ but more so character qualities.When we can hold onto a vision of what could be possible and focus on the millimeter, even micrometer steps of change, then a vision can and does become a reality.
Grit and grace

Going the distance is a ministry of grit and grace, and I stand and applaud you. 

If you know someone who is a long haul caregiver, buy them a coffee, send them a card. In someway acknowledge them and what they are doing. 

Quotes to consider
  • Be there for others but never leave yourself behind Dodinsky
  • We get in trouble whenever we forget that God never gave us the power or the right to change anyone.  That is His job! Michael Liimatta 
  • Do for One What You Wish You Could Do for Everyone Andy Stanley
Questions to answer
  1. What observations have you made about those caring for others over a long period?
  2. Who do you know that could be considered as a long haul caregiver?
  3. In what ways can we say ‘Well done good and faithful servant’?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Paz Arando

Feb 19, 2020
No more plans. Give me a foggy signpost
09:15

Plans and blueprints give us a sense of certainty, but it’s in the fog of relationships we need something more. Signposts offer us a direction, a relationship of trust, an ancient path.

I wanted him to tell me what to do. Give me advice, a plan, a blueprint, a map back to where I once was. I needed help, and I felt utterly lost.

‘I can’t give you a map, but I can give you some foggy signposts’

We all want maps, and plans don’t we. Codes and blueprints that if we follow, we will succeed. For most of life, this is how it works.

Yesterday I had a drive belt on a machine break. I pulled out the belt, went and got a replacement then put the new belt on. The machine is back working, and it felt good. I moved into the chaos and solved the problem.

I will have other problems of chaos again today. I will dig into my brains toolbox, reach for a plan, and solve the problem.

But there are areas of my life, and yours, where there are no clear plans or blueprints. We search for a map and a code but come up short.

The relationships we have with others are probably the most significant area of stress we have. How many times do a few words spoken sink us into depression, push our anxiety buttons, or fire up the coals of our anger?

So we write internal policy manuals. ‘If they do this, then I’ll do that.’ Rule books, manuals, maps, and plans all constrain the traveling relationship to mere functionality.

A foggy signpost

A few years ago, my wife and I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. This pilgrimage journey is one that millions of people have taken, but there is no map. Well, there is actually, or there could be if you wanted to find one, but instead, there are road markers with arrows.

As you walk along the well-worn path, you will come across small stone markers with an arrow and the information of how far it is to go.

If you look at the top of the signpost, you will see a blue panel with yellow lines, all pointing to one spot. The Camino has a scallop shell as a symbol of direction. All the radial points line up to one endpoint: many paths, one destination.

You will find ancient signposts on the Camino being nothing but a scallop shell chiseled into stone.

 

Mental Health is knowing when the map needs to be put down, and a wholehearted seeking of ancient foggy signposts needs to be embraced.CLICK TO TWEET

The Ancient Paths

The Camino de Santiago is an ancient path, but there are even more ancient paths that people like you and I have walked.

Whatever you are going through in your relationships, thousands of others have been through it before.

Jeremiah, born 650 years before Christ, knew of the ancient paths. They were old even then.

Stand at the crossroads, and look,    and ask for the ancient paths,where the good way lies; and walk in it,    and find rest for your souls.Jeremiah 6:16

Have you ever wept? Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. No superhero status here, but he was one that sought out the foggy signposts on the ancient paths.

Developing intimate trust

It was when they said, ‘I believe in you’ and ‘I’m going to walk with you through this’ that I knew that I had found someone under a foggy signpost.

They had been there done that. They had the scars to prove they had been through the battle I was going through, and so they could be trusted.

No trite answers were given, no formulas or maps laid out. It was a sense of presence that invited me to know that I was safe and welcomed. It was intimacy – in-to-me-see.

When we grow in relationship with others who have found and want to share their foggy signposts, we form a community of fellow pilgrims. Honest and ‘dirt between the toes’ wanderers.

A trust grows not in a plan but a presence that it’s going to be ok. You’re not alone. You have fellow travelers who have found the signpost you are looking for.

You begin to drop the plans, blueprints, codes, and loyalty programs. Confidence fills your heart, and you take that one more step into the fog.

The well of Jeremiah’s tears is known to you, and you’re able to provide a sense of presence to fellow Jeremiahs.

Quotes to consider
  • Genuine presence involves being genuinely myself. I can be present for another person only when I dare to be present to myself. Dr. David Benner
  • Spiritual growth begins with the easily overlooked disciplines of attentiveness and surrender. David Benner
  • We live in the shelter of each other. Celtic saying
  • Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Abraham Joshua Heschel
Questions to consider
  1. What foggy signposts have helped you?
  2. Where is the invite today for you to seek out a foggy signpost?
  3. Maps and plans are helpful in many areas of life, but what happens when we try and apply them to our relationships?
Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Dipan Kumar Rout

Feb 12, 2020
When a Thought Takes You Captive
09:17

A thought can become a belief that keeps us captive. But we can have an idea that captures us and inspires growth. We need to nurture the good and true.

‘It’s a weasel.’ The trap had caught and killed a weasel. We had noticed that some animal was eating some of the eggs in the chicken coop, so we had set out a trap. Now the culprit was caught and dead.

Weasels and other animals like possums, rats, ferrets, and stoats cause a great deal of damage to our natural wildlife here in New Zealand. Before man coming to our Islands, there were only birds. It was just one happy, chirping bird-filled land.

But with the introduction of animals such as possums, weasels, and alike it has been a war against the wild. We love our native birds and forests, and so we work hard at protecting them.

Weasel thoughts

In my thought life, I have some thoughts that are like weasels. They are repetitive, destructive, and so familiar that I don’t even realize that I’m thinking them.

I can guarantee you have them or ones similar.

  • ‘Nothing ever changes.’
  • ‘I’m dumb.’
  • ‘I’m ugly.’
  • ‘I’m not good at anything.’

Their weasels and they’re eating away the real beauty and power of your life. A little thought here and there, keeping you in the familiar territory where you have always thought that thought.

That thought repeated over time, mixed with emotion, becomes your truth. Its the way you see the world. Some people believe the world is flat. They feed the notion. It dominates their thinking.

It has captured them, and it has become their truth.

Taking every thought captive

I want to get a trap that can catch weasel thoughts. You have it connected into the garden of your brain, and every rodent thought that passes through the neuron network are trapped.

Snared before it continues to do damage.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5  that we are to ‘take every thought captive to obey Christ.’

We are to grasp every thought.

Imagine yourself grasping a wriggling thought in your hand. You have it in your grip. You have caught it, and you examine it. Is this critter helpful or harmful?

It needs to be obedient, to be under submission, and not allowed to roam free and wild in your life, destroying your beauty and purpose.

Captured by a thought

Let’s flip this around. How about a thought that has captured you? Being captive to an idea.

I’ve had an idea recently that has captured my thinking. It started as an idea, just a little inkling. Then I kept feeding it and coming back to get to it. Holding it in my hands and pondering over it.

It’s about this blog, and the people it reaches, how it’s a precious thing. It’s a community, and I so enjoy how it helps so many people.

It’s an idea I want to foster, nourish, and see where it leads.

Back to our illustration about the problem we have here in New Zealand about weasels, rats, and possums.

Someone at some stage had an idea about creating pest-free zones. Small offshore Islands were made predator-free. Rare and endangered species of birds were given a home to flourish in.

Then that thought of predator-free areas gained momentum, and more people caught the dream. They were captured by the idea of things being different. Thousands of people are now involved in making New Zealand predator-free. We have a goal of New Zealand being predator-free by 2050. 

I don’t know whether we will ever become predator-free, but every step towards it is a good one.

What thought has captured you? 

For many struggling with a Mental Illness, there is an element of being captured by a thought of despair. That tomorrow will be the same as yesterday. That there is no hope.

Repeated time and time again through the neural networks, it can become so hardwired that it becomes like a flat earth belief system. It is your truth and all you know. It is how you see the world.

A new thought needs to take capture of you.

What anyone of us can do is to invite a good, holy thought of divine inspiration to trickle into our subconscious. We can then nourish and feed that thought. Dwell in it and let it capture us much like a beautiful sunrise or the early morning song of a bird.

God, trickle into my thinking a thought of divine beautyand purpose. Help me to be captivated by it. 

For the next few moments, we invite that thought to be our calling. It grows and displaces those varmints out of the way.

What we focus on grows.

What I focus on gets me. Focus on the negatives/ challenges will always take me down. Focus on the positives/ good things will always give me hope. – From my thinking compass

Were not going to make New Zealand predator-free in the next few moments, but in the moment of today, we can do what we can do. I could order a trap for my backyard.

Let a thought captivate you and pull you towards beauty and purpose.

Quotes to consider
  • Behind every despairing and fearful moment, there’s a wrong belief. Trace the lie, face the lie, and replace the lie with a new insight. D. Riddell
  • The warfare the Christian is involved in is the battle between true and mistaken beliefs. It is warring for reality against the delusional world of lies. Which side will you take? D. Riddell
  • The chief thief is the belief beneath, the subconscious is always the power behind the decisions we make and the outcomes we experience. David Riddell 
  • What we do comes out of who we believe we are. Rob Bell
Questions to answer
  1. What keeps you captive?
  2. What captivates you?
Further reading

Smelling the Roses Grows a Healthy Brain

Barry Pearman

Image Credit: Eric Ward

Feb 09, 2020
True Beauty Is Under The Tarnish
09:53

Many women don’t think they are beautiful.  A tarnish is over their soul. But underneath, there is a beauty that can change a world, a delight that needs to be listened for and affirmed.

There was a beauty there, and I wanted to affirm it. I could see it in the way she moved, the energy and thoughtfulness she placed into her intent. It was beautiful but tarnished.

When I said she was beautiful, it was dismissed immediately. Her tarnished thoughts had crowded in and screamed comparisonitis memes. Comparisons to Instagram models and airbrushed movie stars. The women in the clothes catalogs alway with the beautiful skin.

FatWrinklesHipsStomachHairBags

Tarnished beauty

Have you ever noticed that on metal objects, a thin film or layer builds up on the outside. It’s a tarnish, which is a thin layer of corrosion that forms over the surface. The outermost layer is undergoing a chemical reaction.

Given enough time and the layers build up. The brightness and the ability of the metal to reflect is lost under layers of oxidation.

Did you notice the word ‘corrosion’? It eats away at the internal, creates a crust, hides the glory of what’s underneath.

To reveal the true and deep beauty of a tarnished object, those layers need to removed. Out comes some polish, something slightly abrasive and liquid.

Then with gentle but firm pressure, a rhythm is formed of working the polish over the tarnish and wiping the accumulated corrosion away.

Underneath the beauty is there. Shinning and a delight to the eyes. Alluring and dragging you in to know it more.

There is nothing more beautiful than a woman fully alive. Living without the tarnish of others oxidizing corrosive norms.

Was Mother Teresa beautiful?

And certain women

We don’t have an exact number of how many women were amongst Jesus followers, but we do know that there were quite a few.

The Twelve were with him. There were also some women in their company who had been healed of various evil afflictions and illnesses: Mary, the one called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s manager; and Susanna—along with many others who used their considerable means to provide for the company. Luke 8:1-3

In such a patriarchal male-dominated society, why were so many women magnetized by Jesus?

Jesus was a safe man, and women are drawn to safe men.

True men know real beauty is something more mysterious and alluring than anything of what a movie star can cosmetically enhance.

Beauty is a movement of the soul, and we notice it when we observe well.

Beauty is something to be discovered

That sunrise was beautiful, but you have to get up early in the morning to see it.

The bird song was beautiful, but you have to still yourself long enough to hear it.

The smell of a beautiful rose is divine, but you have to stop and stoop to catch the scent.

True beauty isn’t hand-delivered to you on a plate; it must be sought out to be experienced.

The wonder of women

Physical beauty, the tarnished perceptions, is fleeting, according to Proverbs 31:30. But there seems to be a beauty that sparkles brighter than a bunch of diamonds.

The writer of Proverbs 31, possibly a woman (King Lemuel’s Mother),  describes a beautiful woman in the categories of how she cares for her family, her creativity, industriousness, business wisdom, and generosity. She has an inner strength and dignity and gives respect to her husband and the way he moves into his world. 

I know many women like this wonder women. I don’t think they would consider themselves beautiful, because of the tarnish, but they are truly beautiful.

Affirming the beauty

I want to tell more women that they are beautiful, but I fear it will be misconstrued. People might well jump to conclusions that aren’t true. The words get filtered through the tarnish.

I tell my wife, daughter, and granddaughter that they are beautiful, but even then, the tarnish might dull the impact of the words.

I see beauty, it warms my heart, and I want to move towards and affirm it, so I might well say ‘that is a beautiful thing you do.’

It doesn’t speak to the wholeness of the beauty of who they are, but it might just cut through some of the tarnish.

Affirming the sunrise, the bird-song, and the waft of beauty is a gift we can give to others. It takes intention, courage, wisdom, and observation.

It’s a practice we need to become skilled at intuitively.

Quotes to consider
  • Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too is experience in the soul of the individual. David G. Benner
  • Remain in beauty, and we will honor beauty everywhere. Richard Rohr
  • People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
  • When inspiration touches talent, she gives birth to truth and beauty. Steven Pressfield
  • Dying people can teach us … Often the attributes that define them drop away—the hair, the shape, the skills, the cleverness. And then it turns out that the packaging is not who that person has really been all along. Without the package, another sort of beauty shines through. Anne Lamott
Questions to answer
  1. What is beauty?
  2. What is the corrosive effect on a woman’s soul from the ‘beautiful people’ images and models?
  3. How can a man affirm beauty in a woman without coming across the wrong way?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image:David Pisnoy

Jan 30, 2020
How to relax? You need to Feel and Safe and Known
13:29

Few of us know how to fully and deeply relax. The noisy neighbors can keep us from the rest we need, but when we feel safe and known, we can restore.

He almost went to sleep. That was the first observation he shared with me after a short spiritual meditation exercise we went through — silence, peacefulness, quiet focus, and a ‘stepping away’ from the noise.

He stepped away from needing to be someone and to do something into a pose of quiet acceptance.

Breathing in, breathing out. Centering the thoughts and feelings away from the past and the future to being present in the now. Right here, right now.

Do you know how to relax?

It’s a serious question.

For many of us, the word relax might be connected with having a day off work, kicking back, sleep in, reading a book, watching a movie. But then you’re greeted by noisy neighbors. They come knocking at your door, speaking to your mind.

    • You’re not doing enough
    • You don’t deserve this
    • What will …. think?
    • If I don’t do this, then this will happen
    • I must do more
    • I must be more

To quell those noisy neighbors, I believe we need to feel both safe and known.

The need to feel safe

The first struggle I have observed in those that find deep relaxation difficult is one of safety.

Will I be ok if I relax? When will someone pounce? Who is going to tell me off? Maybe even the thought of ‘Will I get beaten?’ shouts fear into the awareness.

It could be the reality of their current lives. Living in a circle of abuse. But often it is the still reverberating echoes of another time.

Perhaps in those early formative years, there was a need for hypervigilance. To be always on alert for some threat.

A supposed safe place for most, the family, was a place of trauma, unpredictability.  So a pattern was formed of always being on guard.

It could be from a recent time, an abusive relationship and the cortisol trigger is finely tuned for release.

I remember when I was a pastor, people feeling so safe in my office that they went to sleep.

The need to feel known

One of the little mottos we often adopt is ‘If it’s going to be, then it’s up to me.’

On the healthy side, its a call to self-responsibility, but the unhealthy flip side is a rugged, self-reliant independence.  Relaxing, letting go of the need to do or to be, can feel like an abandonment of responsibility.

‘If I relax, then who is going to …’‘If I relax, then things won’t get done.’

We push back at the thought of quietness because we want to be in control.

But when that fear of ‘what will  happen’ is known, understood, and embraced by someone greater than ourselves, it always includes an invitation to relax.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? Matthew 6:25-27

In that brief moment of invited relaxation, there is an assurance that it’s going to be ok.

You can pick up the responsibilities later after being restored and rejuvenated, but for that moment of relaxation, it’s time for you.

Permission to retreat

The word ‘retreat’ is an interesting one. I remember watching old movies as a kid and hearing the cry go up ‘Retreat!’ and the cowboys or the soldiers would run away from the battle.

‘Retreat’ seems to be a failure, a giving up, a defeat.

Retreat: (of an army) withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat.   Then we get these places called ‘Retreat centres’ and we hear of people going on ‘Spiritual retreats’. Aren’t they kind of weaklings? Running away from life?   The problem is that the body keeps score. Constant running into the noise of life takes its toll on the body and eventually the body will say enough. Stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, constant fatigue etc   Retreating is not a failure or a sign of weakness. Its a sign of health and an awareness that youre not superman. Your feet are made of clay and they need a foot bath and some pampering.   I give you permission to retreat.   We all have a lives where there is resistance. All of us are pushing into a wind and it pushes back. There is an interface and it tires the soul.   To retreat is not a failure. It is an honest awareness that we are not machines.   We need to time to refresh the skin that has faced the wind. We duck in behind a tree and let the world go by. We refresh to dance another day.   Mountain, boat, chest, feet.   

Jesus was and is the man who knows how to relax. He also has an invitational stance where relaxation is offered in bodily form to us.

With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night. Matthew 14:23

Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat. So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves. Mark 6:31

A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! Mark 4:38-40

One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder. John 13:23

Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. Luke 10:39-40

Jesus knew full well about the noisy neighbors. He also knew about the need to feel safe and known.

His invite is for you to retreat to a place where you feel safe. It could be a beach, a forest, a river, a special chair you have, a pillow to rest your head on. There is also an invite to rest your head on his chest and sit at his feet.

He wants you to know that he knows. He knows about the demands of your life. He knows the noisy neighbors, and he offers refreshment for the journey, that it’s going to be ok. That in this moment of relaxation, he can provide wisdom.

You might like to read more about this. There are some links at the bottom of this post.

I give you permission to relax.

Few of us know how to fully and deeply relax. The noisy neighbors can keep us from the rest we need, but when we feel safe and known, we can restore.

Quotes to consider
  • We go to sleep, and God begins his work. As we sleep he develops his covenant. We wake and are called out to participate in God’s creative action. Eugene Peterson
  • Sleep is God’s contrivance for giving us the help he cannot get into us when we are awake. George Macdonald
  • We cannot attain the presence of God. We‘re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness Richard Rohr
  • Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. Confessions by Augustine of Hippo
  • if you routinely practice relaxation, this will increase the activity of genes that calm down stress reactions, making you more resilient. Rick Hanson
Questions to consider
  1. What stops you from fully relaxing?
  2. Where is a place that says for you ‘Come and relax’?
  3. Who are your noisy neighbors, and what do you they keep saying to you?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Craig Philbrick

Jan 22, 2020
Message Sent Message Heard. That Trivago Ad
11:45

Messages can be messy. We say one thing, they hear another, but we need to be heard so we need to learn about filters and speak with grace and compassion.

The message I heard was probably not the message they wanted to send. Who got it wrong?

Over the past few weeks, the online hotel booking company Trivago has been showing an ad on New Zealand Television featuring a young lady and an older lady. In the ad, the younger lady gets a better deal on her accommodation because she used the Trivago phone app.

As one commenter on Youtube says

‘What Trivago is really communicating in this ad, is that OLD people are ‘not with it’. Young people are smarter and more savvy. Stereotypes in other words.’

What message did you get from the ad?

Now I have asked a few people, and most felt the ad was ageist, discriminating against older people and offensive. Some didn’t see any problem with the ad. That Trivago was helpful to older people.

So I asked a friend of mine, Elizabeth Herr, who is a Certified Body Language Trainer to have a look at the ad.

I don’t see ageism at all. Instead, I see a sense of superiority/elitism from the older woman!

At 0:07, the younger woman has a slightly raised eyebrow, but this seems more indicative of knowing privately that she’s got the better deal – she has a genuine and even smile, but there is no malice.

The older woman, on the other hand, made a ‘show’ of the price quoted to her:

At 0:08, she lifts her chin (also called a chin jut), and her forehead is back. This, in effect, makes her ‘look down her nose’ in a superior manner.

This is followed at 0:10 by an eyebrow raise (to draw attention to what she says), a sideways glance of the eyes and head turn in the direction of the brunette. When she says ‘not bad,’ she also displays a contempt micro-expression (one-sided mouth raise). All of this shows a sense of disdain and superiority.

At 0:15, when she says ‘wait’ after hearing the quoted ‘ninety-five pounds,’ she displays a disgust micro-expression (lips pulled up).

At 0:21, the woman raises her eyebrows at hearing the benefits of Trivago. Eyebrow raise is often indicative that we like or approve of something or think something is ínteresting.

After the brunette explains the benefits of Trivago, she is still smiling at 0:24, but it’s still even (both sides raised, so no contempt).

At 0:26, the concierge tries to pry the card out of her hand while pursing his lips, indicating that he’s feeling stressed, and then right at 0:27, the lady has an angry expression on her face (brow furrowed).

The only ‘dig’ here might be that Trivago is insinuating that people of a certain age bracket are less ‘app savvy’ than the younger generation and is making them aware of their application.Elizabeth Herr The People Toolbox

Messages are messy

You say one thing, and they hear something completely different.

You think to yourself, or you might even say it out loud …

‘Why don’t they listen to me’!

They may well have been listening to you, but you weren’t speaking their language. You weren’t being clear with the message you were sending.

Sure the listener has a responsibility to listen. They have to choose to listen, to make sense of the words, the non-verbals, the context. What they hear will be some version of what you say, but it may not be the right version.

Message filters

To understand communication, you need to understand filters.

In photography, one of the ways to get some different looking images is to put filters over the lens of the camera.

When the light passes through the lens filter, it is changed and creates a different image to the reality of what is actually there.

We all have filters that we listen to others through.

  • Prejudices
  • Beliefs
  • Physical impairments – e.g., hearing loss
  • Experiences

A good communicator takes into account the filters people have and adjusts the message for clarity.

If you want to be heard
  1. Find out the filtersThis is going to take time and observation. Understanding your listener is a sign of respect that you want to know them and connect with them. After talking with them, ask them gentle curious questions to see if they got the right message.
  2. Speak with compassionIf you want connection, then you need to have compassion for the listeners. They don’t know what you’re trying to communicate. So think about their situation first.
Seasoned with salt

The apostle Paul in writing a letter to some early Christian believers, tells us that our speech needs to be gracious, seasoned with salt.

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6 

Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4:6 (The Message)

Enhance the flavor of your speech with grace. Listen and speak with love.

Quotes to consider
  • People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Theodore Roosevelt
  • The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. Peter Drucker
  • “A brother has not given up all things if he holds onto the purse of his own opinions.” Francis of Assisi – Richard Rohr Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi 
  • Most people do not see things as they are; they see things as they are! Richard Rohr, Breathing Underwater
Questions to answer
  1. What was your first response to the Trivago ad?
  2. What filters do you have that you listen to messages through?
  3. Do you ever exclaim ‘Why don’t people listen to me’? Where does the responsibility for the communication begin?
Further reading

Jan 15, 2020
God, will it always be like this? Being a slave to despair
13:09

God, will it always be like this? That was what their heart was wanting to know. The answer lay in knowing their slave master of despair. Hope is the dance partner of Faith and Love.

Every day felt the same, in fact, every week and every month. Do the job, make a meal, go to sleep: repeat, repeat, repeat — monotonous drudgery.

It wasn’t just the repetitive nature of the grind that got to you., it was the slow wearing down of the soul.

It was like something beautiful and purposeful was being scraped off a ‘Mona Lisa,’ dropped on the floor, trampled on, and ground into dust.

They sensed they were losing themselves. Who they were, who they were meant to be — all at the hands of a slavemaster tyrant.

 

Your slave master

What keeps you stuck? What keeps you in the same Mental Health timezone?

That hole of depression. That tightrope of anxiety.

For a nation of people, it was the oppression of an Egyptian slavemaster. They were building a man’s glory while destroying their own.

That was the lot of the nation of Israel. Slaves to Pharoah. Brickmakers day in, day out.

So they [the Egyptians] organized them into work-gangs and put them to hard labor under gang-foremen.They built the storage cities Pithom and Rameses for Pharaoh. But the harder the Egyptians worked them, the more children the Israelites had—children everywhere!The Egyptians got so they couldn’t stand the Israelites and treated them worse than ever, crushing them with slave labor.They made them miserable with hard labor—making bricks and mortar and back-breaking work in the fields.They piled on the work, crushing them under the cruel workload. Exodus 1:11-14

It’s easy to identify an external slavemaster.

It’s their fault. They are the ones to blame. They are the ones who are making my life miserable. So easy to give others more power than God ever wanted them to have.

Yes, some people are controllers; they like to be slave masters, dominating, and oppressing. They, too, are trapped in their fears.

Locus of control

There is an interesting psychological concept called Locus of control

Locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control. Understanding of the concept was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since become an aspect of personality studies.A person’s “locus” (plural “loci,” Latin for “place” or “location”) is conceptualized as internal (a belief that one can control one’s own life) or external (a belief that life is controlled by outside factors which the person cannot influence, or that chance or fate controls their lives).[1]

Individuals with a strong internal locus of control believe events in their life derive primarily from their own actions: for example, when receiving exam results, people with an internal locus of control tend to praise or blame themselves and their abilities. People with a strong external locus of control tend to praise or blame external factors such as the teacher or the exam. Wikipedia Locus of control

What does your focus tell you about your locus?

I have found in myself and others that focusing on how other people treat you (external locus) takes away a sense of personal power. You give the other more power than they need to have.

We even can do this with God. Blaming God for our circumstances instead of taking healthy responsibility for our own choices.

Oh, yes, and we can blame the devil. ‘The devil made me buy this dress’ by Flip Wilson springs to mind (must listen!).

There has to be a time where you come to an internal locus of control. What can I do? What do I have control over?

The crying out of the slave

There comes a time when you have had enough of being a slave.

The slavery of a belief you have held in your brain. A Pharoah sized belief is keeping you in captivity. You recognize that there is some internal thinking work you need to do.

No one else can do this for you. It’s your brain, your responsibility, 100%.

You cry out in prayer because you realize that this is too big for you to do it by yourself.  

Supernatural goals need supernatural resources. Larry Crabb

 

You sense yourself as being like those Israelites.

The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out. Their cries for relief from their hard labor ascended to God:

God listened to their groanings.

God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.

God saw what was going on with Israel.

God understood. Exodus 2: 23-25 (The Message)

Then, in the male aspect of God’s divine nature, God moves (Exodus 3).

Your Moses

God moves to a man on the run. A man also trapped and enslaved by his beliefs. Moses had been living in the desert for 40 years. He had killed an Egyptian slavemaster and had fled.

Forty years of being shaped by both the harshness and the beauty of the wilderness.

Forty years in the wilderness getting to know the beastProjected and reflected on the greatest and the leastForty years of days and nights — angels hovering nearKept me moving forward though the way was far from clearBruce Cockburn

We all need a Moses. Someone who will speak healing truth to our lies, the concoctions we have created in our minds that keep us enslaved.

It will be Spirit (Holy) nudging, poking, prodding, alluring us to face the falsity.

I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth.  Jesus John 14:16-17

The words of encouragement will come through others. People who have a compelling vision for you that things can be different. Silence will be involved where you have to both wrestle and dance with your own beliefs.

I, Barry, may also be involved. If I can, at the very least, pray for you, then it would be a great privilege. Send me an email via the contact form.

Will it always be like this? I don’t think so. History tells me that change happens. Hope is the dance partner of Faith and Love, so let’s keep seeing where this leads.

Quotes to consider
  • Despair is what happens when there is a lack of new creation. When things are just are what they are and there is a deep sense of impotence that there is nothing you can do about it. Rob Bell Episode 219 | Jesus H. Christ – Part 9 – Is That His Last Name?
  • Despair is a spiritual condition. Despair is when you fall under the belief and conviction that tomorrow will simply be a repeat of today. Rob Bell 
  • Without the inner discipline of faith, most lives end in negativity, blaming, or deep cynicism—without even knowing it. Richard Rohr Page: 24 Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi 
  • Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • When you are no longer able to change, what will God do with you, if you have not yet become what He wants?  D. Riddell
  • God does not love you if and when you change. God loves you so that you can change. Richard Rohr
  • Don’t judge the future by the past – the future will be different when new insights and understandings restore hope. David Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. What beliefs are keeping you, enslaved?
  2. What’s it like to know God listens to your groans, remembers the promises, sees your plight, and understands?
  3. What would ‘God moving’ into your situation look like? Would you like an ‘on the run’ convict to be your advocate/ rescuer?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Nagy Arnold

Jan 01, 2020
Nine Interesting Questions to Help you Handle Criticism
10:58

Criticism comes to us all, but we can grow through it. We need to listen, ask questions and learn how to handle it with dignity.

They knew what was going to happen even before they got home. They were going to have to run through a gauntlet of criticism.

  • Where did you go?
  • Why did you do that?
  • Can’t you do anything right
  • You’re always doing that
Criticism hurts

Some of the words were like outright punches to their soul, while others were like a cat digging its claws in just to let you know its there. Little scratches, dragging deep, cutting to the core.

This was becoming a normal part of life.

Poke, poke, prick, prick, punch, punch.  It was wearing them down to where they saw every little comment as a criticism. They were getting swallowed up by the negativity and losing their breath.

It’s a sad reality that words can cut you down, and little jabs can take you out.

Have you ever been criticized? How did you handle it?

Most of us don’t handle criticism well.

All too often, one criticism collects with another criticism, and a pattern is formed in our brain. A belief is birthed that we are a failure, everything we do is wrong, and we have no value.

This can be so hard wired into us that even when someone isn’t criticizing us, we still hear it as a criticism. Our negativity bias in our brain can warp even a kind word into a critique.

What can help to handle the negativity is to ask yourself some questions that will shift your thinking out of reaction and self condemnation into a more reflective pragmatic mode.

Nine questions to help you handle criticism
  1. What was my emotional response to the criticism?Did I bury it? Take it in as truth? Get angry, frustrated?Examining your feelings may help you make sense of it all.
  2. Have I clarified the criticism?People say things to us, and we respond but is our response accurate to what was being said.It’s often useful to slow the emotion train down and pragmatically ask clarifying questions.‘So what I hear you saying is …’‘Can you explain … to me further.’‘Would be able to tell me more?’
  3. Can you write their criticism down?As part of clarifying the criticism, write it down, present it to them, ask them if you got it right. Create a log of all the criticisms you endure. Put all the criticisms into one place. It may show some trends.
  4. Is there some truth to learn here?All of us have areas in our lives that we could work on. Such as not putting your dirty coffee cup in the dishwasher is annoying.Perhaps their criticism has some validity.

     

     Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts,    but profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6

    As iron sharpens iron,    so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17

  5. Is this more about them than it is about me?Are they letting off steam, and you happen to get caught in the vent?Perhaps they are a bully, wanting to dominate and control.Maybe there is a pecking order that they want to maintain.Perhaps they are blaming you for things that are actually their responsibility.
  6. Is there a pattern to their criticism?There may well be a pattern to their fault-finding. Every day at a specific time, they always take a shot.Perhaps it’s related to an event. ‘You always forget to buy peanut butter’ after you have been shopping.
  7. Could a problem-solving sheet help?If there is a regular pattern of criticism, it might be time to pull out a problem-solving sheet and pragmatically work through the issue.Learn more here
  8. Is my inner critic the one that is creating the noise?We all have an inner critic that regularly tells us we are not doing this or that. That we are not performing up to a certain standard. Comparisonitis can kick in too.The criticism heard was minor but its being amplified by the inner critic.Sometimes you have to tell your inner critic to SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP or perhaps more gently to take a back seat.
  9. Has a line of love and respect (boundary) been crossed, and if so, what are the consequences for crossing them?Some times it just gets too much. A line had been crossed, and you need to express a consequence. ‘When you said that, it crossed a line.  The consequence will be …’
Summary

Remember, you can’t control how others respond to you. What you can control is how you respond to them.

It takes time, reflective time, where you listen to yourself and what gets generated within you when a criticism lands. Then move out from there.

Quotes to consider
  • Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5
  • Other peoples’ reaction to you might be telling you more about themselves, than about you. Don’t take it so personally. D. Riddell
  • It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a contentious wife. Proverbs 21:9
  • The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. Peter Drucker
  • Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner. Lao Tzu
  • He who throws dirt always loses ground. Unknown
  • He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help. Abraham Lincoln
  • Praise and encouragement is much more effective in changing others’ behaviour than is criticism, but which do you use on yourself? D. Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. Can we become hypersensitive to criticism? How can we defuse the hypersensitivity?
  2. Who has a stronger voice in your life? The inner critic or an outer critic?
  3. What example can you think of where criticism was given in a helpful way. What made it helpful?
Further reading

Give them your Shirt and confuse the bully into shame

How ‘Going the extra Mile’ Flips the Power Dynamics

Does ‘Turning the other cheek’ mean I have to keep taking abuse?

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Matthew T Rader

Dec 18, 2019
Upon Leaving the Cocoon
10:44

We all have a cocoon around us that may keep us safe, too safe, but there is a time for leaving the old and entering the new. Sometimes we have to walk through the crowd to get there. 

Something new was happening in them. They were changing, leaving. There was a spark in their eyes, and people were starting to notice, comment, and ask questions. They were leaving a tired old cocoon.

It had been a safe place,  but now it was getting too cramped and tight for all the work they had been doing on the inside. It had been mostly hidden work, and only a few knew the struggles and suffering they had been through, but now it was time to evolve. 

When the memories joined up, and the story gained clarity, things began to make sense. When she was offered new truth and insights, further sense was made about who she truly was. Lightbulb thinking moments began to spark, then whole street rows of lights glowed, and a new path was shown.

Massive learnings were beginning to take place.

What she had believed about herself once was now being turned upside down. She was starting to see her life the right side up.

Upon leaving the cocoon

I’ve noticed that often when people have this sense of emergence, there are several responses.

  1. Wonderment and joy. Everything seems fresh, alive, and full of adventurous invitation. There is a whole new world to explore.
  2. Anger and Grief. There can be grief and anger at being kept in the old prison for so long.
  3. Celebration from others. People notice and rejoice in the change.
  4. Ambivalence from others. They don’t notice. They are so trapped in their small world contexts that they are blind to see the beauty coming forward.
  5. Rejection from others. Some will question it, challenge it, and possibly reject it. It makes them uncomfortable to see ripples of newness.
Walkthrough the crowd

In an interesting little story of Jesus, we see him breaking out of the cocoon of others’ expectations. Their response was a desire to kill the butterfly.

He had just announced to his township who he was, and they didn’t take kindly to his divinity.

They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. Luke 4:29-30

At times you have to leave the town behind because the town will keep you in the mindset of a town.

The next time he came home, the town still kept him in the framework of the past.

He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said,

“Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?  And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:54-58

Your framework

The town saw him as the carpenter’s son, mother – Mary, brothers, sisters.

That was the identity for which they could place him in. The markers of identity were true, but he had left the cocoon of their context.

They were trying to fit the box of their context around the Son of God. Impossible.

No miracles happened there, nothing of life-changing power for them. Jesus moved on through the crowd yet again. Leaving them behind in their own cocoon.

What’s your cocoon?

What are the walls you are pressing up against that need to broken apart? Are there some beliefs about yourself that you need to tear away? Are you allowing others to define your town?

There is a beauty and purpose that may well be waiting for expression.

Let it come in its own time and walk through the crowd because, as Mother Teresa says, ‘it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.’

Quotes to consider
  • And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live.Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.Perfection is static, and I am in full progress.Abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones.Anaïs Nin
  • People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.Forgive them anyway.If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.Be kind anyway.If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.Succeed anyway.If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.Be honest and sincere anyway.What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.Create anyway.If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.Be happy anyway.The good you do today, will often be forgotten.Do good anyway.Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.Give your best anyway.In the final analysis, it is between you and God.It was never between you and them anyway.Mother Teresa

  • All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another. Anatole France
  • The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life, or what we call “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah, in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians. Richard Rohr When Things Fall ApartQuestions to answer
  1. What frameworks do you and others keep yourself in?
  2. Have you had any experience of leaving a ‘cocoon’? What was it like? How did others respond?
  3. What is the cocoon you need to begin to let go of?
Further Reading

Image cc: Suzanne D. Williams

Dec 11, 2019
Learning to Detach Helps with Anxiety
00:00

Anxiety can make you want to control, but learning to detach can bring peace. Perhaps you care too much and its time to let go.

She was holding on tightly. Too tightly. It was care, it was love, but in that embrace, she was suffocating the life out of the other, and destroying peace in herself.

She was not allowing the other to find their way through the pains of growth.

I know what it’s like. You become so emotionally attached to someone that they are glued to your soul. In a good sense, its love, but on the dark side, it can lead to control, manipulation, anxiety, worry, and fear. 

You see their warts, and you want to fix, rescue, or save them.

A heartbeat of anxiety pounds within your head and worry flows around you.

You’re consumed by it, but you know that there is nothing you can do. You’ve tried to control, manipulate, and bribe compliance, but the more you do this, the greater the anxiety grows. You try to take power over the situation, but it only backfires in your face.

There is a time to detach

I’ve noticed in these times of fear that a quiet invitation to detach comes. To let go that which I have been clasping on to.

I think that the best way I can describe this healthy form of detachment might be in two metaphors and a parable.

Space vehiclesI see the image of the Apollo rocket and its vehicle detaching. Joined through an airlock, there is a free flow of people and supplies. But there comes a time when they have to detach. One lets the other one go. It’s quiet and seamless. The other may not even know there has been a detachment, but there is a knowing that there will be a return.

I see myself letting go.

The release in the dance

Two dancers joined together. Hand to hand, eye to eye, waist to waist. There’s a closeness and a connection, but then comes a moment when one dancer is released to perform another movement. There is a healthy detachment with the hope of return.

Loving the prodigal

It’s a story with many layers, but in the parable of the Loving Father (Prodigal Son), we see a loving father releasing his son to go his own way. Its a detachment. He is letting the son go.

There is the hope of a return, but it’s not certain. The father is not dependant on a son’s approval or love for him to have peace. The father hopes and looks for the son to learn something about his very own loving and secure nature.

The son enters the darkness to return to the light.

Healthy and unhealthy detachment

Healthy detachment comes with love for the other and yourself. You realize that holding on is not helping them learn. It’s not helping you find peace. Your protecting them is not allowing them to learn from the natural consequences.

Unhealthy detachment comes with selfishness. It’s all about you and getting your needs met your way. You have no concern for them at all. Its the opposite of love, its indifference.

Poet or a chessplayer?

One of my favorite quotes is this.

“Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.”  G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

What he is saying that if you live your life like a chessplayer where you are trying to control all the pieces and manipulate an outcome, then it’s going to be very stressful and anxiety forming.

Whereas, a poet finds creative freedom by being attached to the ‘imagination.’

A prayer of release

Detaching requires wisdom. A knowing that it’s going to be ok on the other side.

This knowing is discovered through practice. The more you learn to let go, the greater you learn that you will be ok. That someone greater is still holding your hand.

Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr serenity prayer is a prayer of release and detachment. Its a prayer you might like to pray whenever those feelings of anxiety well up.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Reinhold Niebuhr

Anxiety can make you want to control, but learning to detach can bring peace. Perhaps you care too much and its time to let go.

Quotes to consider
  • Anxiety can make you want to control but learning to detach can bring peace. Perhaps you care too much and its time to let go.
  • If some problems have no adequate explanations, and never will have, then we must come to grips with confusion and learn to live in mystery.   Larry Crabb
  • Don’t try to change others, work on yourself instead. Your response to others is always your responsibility, and the right response ensures respect all round. David Riddell
  • If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when? Hillel the Elder
  • I’ve got this thing in my heartI must give you todayIt only lives when youGive it away.Bruce Cockburn
Questions to answer
  1. What feelings emerge when you consider letting go and detaching?
  2. Who is in control?
  3. Are you more the Chessplayer or more the Poet?
Further reading

A Simple Way That God Cares For Your Worn Out Soul

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Natalie Grainger

Dec 05, 2019
‘Power over’ or ‘Power With’. What causes you to flourish?
11:59

‘Power over’ was normal, but ‘power with’ was what they needed. When we listen deeply, we move forward.  Mental health flourishes when power is shared.

She was small in stature, and I think she also saw herself as being a little person, insignificant. She was also quiet and never really said much or offered up an opinion. When she shared some of her story, I learned how, as a young adult, she had developed schizophrenia.

In her delusional state, she had done some very destructive things to people’s property. She had been committed to living in a Mental Health hospital and lived there for many years.

In an ordered regimented world like one of those old Mental Health hospitals, you lose your power, and you can even lose your identity.

Do this, do that, and you and the world will be safe. Straight jacketed secure, but safe none the less.

But I always made it a point to seek out her opinion. Not the surface opinion but her views deeper down, under the self-belief she had that her opinion didn’t matter.

There was gold to be had under the layers of power abuses she had endured.

Power dynamics

In mental health work and much of life, we need to understand the role of power. Who has it and how it’s used. ‘Power over’ and ‘Power with.’

Power overThis form of power is top-down. Being told what to do. Bullying, domination, control, authority. You see it everywhere because it’s easy to do. There is no need for negotiation.

It’s ‘My way or the highway’; Win: lose where I win, and you lose; ‘I know what’s best for you.’

This type of power is enforced in many ways. It could be by controlling the resources we need to live: money, food, shelter, medical care. Or it could be more subtle by controlling information, approval, love.

We often only become aware of its functioning when we see it in its extreme. The bully and the battered wife.

Sometimes, particularly in Mental Healthcare, it is needed. When someone is unwell, they may not have the rational ability to make informed decisions. For their safety and the safety of others, they may have to receive compulsory enforced health care.

I well remember talking with people who were having psychotic episodes who thought they were perfectly well, yet everyone around could see that they had lost contact with reality. They were hearing and seeing things no one else experienced, and this was leading them to want to do dangerous things. There had to be an intervention for their sakes as well as society as a whole.

Power with

This is sharing the power to make a decision about what to do.  It grows out of the soil of listening. There is mutual respect and support for each other. A valuing of each other’s opinions and a desire to learn more.

In a ‘power with’ relationship questions are asked

  • Can we work on this together?
  • Please tell me more?
  • Help me understand?
  • Did I understand you correctly?
  • Have you any questions for me?
  • Is there anything you don’t understand?
Why this matters for Mental Health

When someone becomes unwell with Mental illness, often they lose a great deal of power. People, with all the best intentions in the world, tell them what they should do.

Go to the doctor, read this book, try this herbal remedy. In looking for help, they may get all the advice but little support in working through the options.

Often there can be a disconnect with an ability to do anything about heir situation. They don’t know about the options available to them.

Many times I have sat with people who have been confused about their mental wellness. The best message I have given them is, ‘I don’t know what is going on either, but together we will find a way through.’ Then we might talk about options such as going together to see a Doctor.

Is God ‘power over’ or ‘power with’?

I believe that how you view God is how you view everything. If you think God is a distant old man in the sky reigning ‘power over’ lighting bolts down on us, then that is going to color your thinking.

For me, I believe that God is in a ‘power with’ us relationship.

We may be looking for the miracle ‘power over’ encounters of healing when all along God offers us miracle moments of ‘power with’ love and grace.

John tells it this way

The Word became flesh and blood,    and moved into the neighborhood. John 1:14

In the Greek, it says that God came and tabernacled with us. A tabernacle is a tent, so I see a holiday campsite and God coming and setting up a tent next to mine. We share some sausages, have a few beers, listen to the cricket (sport), and maybe go fishing together.

The presence of God tenting with me empowers me to express this ‘power with’ relationship with others.

The invitation of empowerment

The invite is to observe those moments where you want to quickly ‘power over’ others. Why do you want to do this?

Then to pull back and look for ways in which you can develop a ‘power with’ relationship.

It starts with listening. Asking good questions and providing information that will keep the dialogue flowing.

Empowerment of others may mean a lessening of your own self. It may mean putting the needs of others ahead of your own. It may mean taking the back seat so others can learn to drive. But hey, then you can enjoy the scenery!

Quotes to consider
  • If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • ‘Whom do we listen to and whom do we trust? Trust is essential to listening. Why do we believe the myth that the poor people don’t know anything and can’t be trusted? Where do you really find more truth about society – at the top or the bottom? Are the best solutions conceived in the corridors of power or in the neighborhoods? Jim Wallis
  • Only those willing to stand close enough to listen will ever hear those closest to the problem. Jim Wallis
  • “Research teaches us that the capacity to reach out to others for help in dealing with fear and pain is the best single remedy for emotional injury.  Whether the person is struggling with the effects of combat, rape, or childhood injury, the best predictor of trauma resolution is good social support.” ~ Terrence Real, I Don’t Want To Talk About It 
  • Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one. C.S. Lewis 
Questions to answer
  1. What examples of ‘power over’ and ‘power with’ can you think of?
  2. Why do we use ‘power over’ as a default method in our relationships?
  3. What would it take for you to adopt a more ‘power with’ relationship with others?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image:Ryan Tauss

Nov 27, 2019
Good things, like Mental Health, take Time. Let’s be patient
11:04

We all want immediate results. A change to our situation, but Mental Health recovery takes time, so let’s be patient with ourselves and others.

‘I wish this would go away’ were the unsaid words messaged in the face of despair, looking at me.

I had seen that gaze many times, and with compassion, I would have loved to have given them a miracle sweep of a magicians wand and see their depression leave, the memories of trauma retreat away, the marriage restored, the grief softened.

We live in an immediate world. With the gentlest of touches on the screen of a smartphone, we can get instant results.  But the healing of a broken soul can seem interminable. 

No Shortcuts

Of course, there is a time for pace, to get to the desired location quickly and efficiently, but I have found in my own life and others that in the healing of the soul, in Mental Health recovery, there are no shortcuts.

If a so-called shortcut is found and taken, then it seems that you wind up back where you started in the first place, still facing the problems and the pain.

Short cuts to relieve the pain might be a preferred addiction – drugs, alcohol, porn, hobbies, sex, shopping. Anything that offers the briefest of moments of avoidance. We also like to minimize, fix the problem quickly, move on, move.

We slap a bandaid on the wound without cleaning out the pus, and we think we’re done.

Mainland Cheese

We have a brand of cheese here in New Zealand called Mainland cheese. Its made in the South Island, and part of its branding message is that it takes time to make good cheese.

The advertisements feature images of beautiful South Island scenery and peaceful music. It’s like stepping back into another time with two elderly gentlemen talking about the old times. It’s very nostalgic.

The message is that ‘good things take time.’

Mental health takes time. Reflection time and brain change time.

Reflection time

When you look into a mirror, you see the image of yourself a fraction of a millisecond ago. It’s the speed of light, but it is history you’re looking at. So you comb your hair this way or that. You apply makeup, or you shave that bit of stubble you missed.

You observe the reflection and learn from it.

Experience is not a great teacher.

I have seen people have the same experience over and over again. They do the same stupid things repeatedly, and never learn from them.

They haven’t taken time to dig deep into what has gone on, why they repeatedly do the same thing over and over again. They have a blind guide, and it’s themself.

Mental health grows out of deep and sometimes painful reflection. Taking time to embrace the reality of the struggle fully.

Good things can’t be rushed. It takes time to sit and ponder.

Brain change time

It’s so good to know that our brains are capable of being rewired. That we can have new networks laid into the physical structure of our brain. This, of course, takes time.

I would love to be able to see the rewiring of my brain from when it was at its most depressed/ anxious state many years ago to where it is now. Old pathways are dying off, new ones growing, and then falling away as even fresher and more unique paths take their place.

Brain change is a process of unlearning old ways and learning new paths.

Its an evolving creative garden of neurological delight.

In the past, when I have been asked to pray for the healing of someone with a Mental Illness, I have prayed for those small little neurons to change physically.

That is where Mental Health miracles take place.

Most people want an immediate change to the way they feel and think, but that would be a too radical change for anyone to handle.

Mental health healing is slow and gradual. It needs to be. No one could handle a brain transplant the way we emotionally want it to happen.

Patience, please

There is some good work going on, but it takes patience for the maturity of the cheese to come.

Patience, not pushing, demanding, or pressuring yourself to be something you’re not ready for. There is a natural healing that has to take its own time.

There is a practice to be had of acceptance and then stepping out and trying new things. Patience grows out of an awareness of our limitations but with a gentle hope for something more.

The size of a neuron

Imagine all the billions of neurons in your brain. Super tiny, all firing off little electrical messages that help you do everything you do.

Some of those neurons have run their course in your life. They were useful once, but now after careful reflection, you want to learn some new ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. That may seem daunting to you, but let’s keep focused at the size of a neuron. Super small, you want to see change.

Form a habit of small.

Prayerfully ask God to help with the rewiring of your neurons.

I have lots of suggestions in my free ebook  Four Spiritual Exercises for Mental Health. 

Also, there are links below to other articles that can help.

Quotes to consider
  • Where there is great love there are always miracles. Willa Cather
  • Experience isn’t the best teacher, evaluated experience is. John C Maxwell
  • We must die to one life before we can enter into another. Anatole France 
  • A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go somewhere else. Richard Rohr
  • Changing behaviour by use of will-power alone will soon result in playing the same tune, but in a different key. The problems just move sideways. D. Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. Why do we want quick solutions?
  2. What changes have you noticed in your Mental Health due to your spending time in reflection?
  3. How does love create a context for Mental Health miracles?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Alexander Maasch

Nov 20, 2019
Would you Know my TRUE Name
11:45

Many live under a false identity, a name used for the convenience of others, but when we learn their true name connection happens. So what’s your real name?

She said what her name was I knew that it wasn't her real name.

Now that caught my attention because in front of me was a lady of apparent Indian descent. Being the curious character I am, I pushed a little further, and she told her ‘real’ name.

I call her by her real name now. Connection.

I understand why so many people with foreign names adopt a new name. Its called convenience. It’s easier for others to remember, to speak, and I suppose it is a statement of a desire to fit in.

I’ve been carrying out this weirdo experiment for a little while now. Wherever I go regularly, and I see the same person serving me like at the petrol station, I ask them their name. If I think it’s not their real name, then I push a little further, ask them their real name, and endeavor to remember it for the next meeting.

Some of the Asian names are difficult to say because of all the tonal inflections, but just because it might be challenging to pronounce does not give me a license to ignore their true name.

My true name

One person used the words ‘True name’ to describe the name they had been given.

My brain leaped at the word ‘True’ because it’s opposite to the word ‘False.’

Maybe it is a false identity that we are dealing with — living under a false name.

True self/ false self.

Do we want to know something false?

When I recently asked someone how it felt that I wanted to know their name, they said it felt good, nice, and special to think that someone wanted to ‘put the effort’ into knowing their name.

I suppose they felt welcomed and valued.

Welcoming the foreigner

In God’s economy, there are no foreigners. God knows everyone and knows them all by name. Their true name.

Explicit instructions were given as part of the law.

“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God.  Leviticus 19:33, 34

Welcoming the foreigner may be as simple as getting to know the true name of the person who mows your lawn or serves your food at the Dunkin Donuts.

Lonely world

We live in an increasingly lonely world, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The foreigner maybe someone you meet every day but is disconnected at a heart level of connection.

It’s often inconvenient to stretch out and be vulnerable.

To open your arms, metaphorically, and embrace the other means your own heart is being exposed to the potential of rejection. A behavior of love being misconstrued as an act of intrusiveness.

When you learn their name

Jim Wallis, in his book Faith Works, tells the story of a lawyer, Dale Recinella, who gets involved in helping out at a local Soup Kitchen.

About twenty years ago, I started helping out at the noon meal of the Good News Soup Kitchen in Tallahassee.

It was located in the city’s then worst crack/prostitution district, halfway between the State Capital and the Governor’s Mansion. I showed up every day in my three-piece suit to help from 11:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

The staff assigned me to “door duty.” That meant my job was to ensure that the street people are lining up to eat waited in an orderly fashion. Every day, I stood at the door for an hour, chatting with the street people waiting to eat.

Before I came to Good News, “street people” was a meaningless term. It defined a group without defining anybody in particular. From the comfort of my car, my suburban home, and my downtown law office, street people were just “those people out there somewhere.”

Then, one day, an elderly woman named Helen came running to the Good News door. A man was chasing her, threatening to kill her if she didn’t give him back his dollar.

“Tell him he can’t hit me here ‘cuz it’s church property!” she pleaded.

In true lawyer fashion, I explained that Good News is not a church, but he still couldn’t hit her. After twenty minutes of failed mediation, I purchased peace by giving each of them a dollar.

That evening, I happened to be standing on the corner of Park and Monroe, a major intersection a few blocks from the State Capital and outside my law office. In the red twilight, I spied a lonely silhouette struggling in my direction from Tennessee St.

“Poor street person,” I thought, as the figure inched closer.

I was about to turn back to my own concerns when I detected something familiar in that shadowy figure. The red scarf. The clear plastic bag with white border. The unmatched shoes.

“My God,” I said in my thoughts, “that’s Helen.”

My eyes froze on her as she limped by and turned up Park. No doubt, she would crawl under a bush to spend the night. My mind had always dismissed the sight of a street person in seconds. It could not expel the picture of Helen.

That night, as I lay on my $1500 deluxe, temperature-controlled waterbed in the suburbs, I couldn’t sleep. A voice in my soul kept asking,

“Where’s Helen sleeping tonight?”

No street person had ever interfered with my sleep before. But the shadowy figure with the red scarf and plastic bag had followed me home.

I had made a fatal mistake.

I had learned her name. 

Let’s put an end to fraudulent living and get to know each other’s names, their true names. As we embrace the ‘foreigner,’ we might just learn something about our name and the identity we have.

Quotes to consider
  • ‘An embrace involves always a double movement of opening and closing.I open my arms to create space in myself for the other. The open arms are a sign of discontent at being myself only and of desire to include the other. They are an invitation to the others to come in and feel at home with me, to belong to me. In an embrace I also close my arms around the others – not tightly, so as to crush and assimilate them forcefully into myself, for that would not be an embrace but a concealed power-act of exclusion; but gently, so as to tell them that I do not want to be without them in their otherness. I want them in their openness. I want them to remain independent and true to their genuine selves, to maintain their identity and as such become part of me so that they can enrich me with what they have and I do not’. Judith M Gundry-Volf, Miroslav Volf. A spacious heart: essays on identity and belonging.
  • Loneliness is the first thing which God’s eye named not good. John Milton
  • The heart of spirituality is connection. When we believe in that inextricable connection, we don’t feel alone. Brené Brown
  • There is a soul yonder which is lonely.” And he added, deep in his own mind, “I owe him a visit.” Les Miserables Victor Hugo
  • The spiritual life is a life of engagement and connection, not a life of isolation and alienation. But healthy spirituality involves a particular way of relating to others and to the world. It involves relating in love. David G. Benner
Questions to answer
  1. Whom do you know that might have a different name to the one they use with you?
  2. What stops us from asking someone their name?
  3. Who is a ‘foreigner’ to you?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image Unsplash Cristian Newman

Nov 14, 2019
Episode 15 Everyone needs a Batman
10:08

Life has challenges and can’t be faced alone, but with the help of faithful and loyal friends, we can make it through. We all need a Batman.

They were right there beside me. Where I went, they went. I couldn’t shake them off, and neither would I want to. They saw both my very private moments of despair and the times of victorious success. He was my batman and carried my bat well.

Before Batman wore a mask

Long before Batman made his appearance as comic book caped crusader, some men had a role in military life as being a batman for a senior officer. They were essentially a servant to an officer in the army.

The term is derived from the obsolete word ‘bat’ meaning ‘packsaddle.’ The batman was in charge of the officers ‘bat-horse,’ which would carry the officers kit during a campaign.

A batman’s duties often included

  • acting as a “runner” to convey orders from the officer to subordinates
  • maintaining the officer’s uniform and personal equipment as a valet
  • driving the officer’s vehicle, sometimes under combat conditions
  • acting as the officer’s bodyguard in combat
  • digging the officer’s foxhole in combat, giving the officer time to direct his unit
  • other miscellaneous tasks the officer did not have time or inclination to do

    Batman (military)

    Sam Hodges

Not a name we probably know, but Sam Hodges was batman to J.R.R. Tolkien at the Battle of the Somme in World War I. This place of hellish death and evil was the context out of which Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien, I believe, honors his batman by naming one of the principal characters in the story after him.

In the epic story, a small furry footed hobbit called Frodo is on a mission to rid the world of a powerful ring. Alongside him walks an equally little man named Samwise Gangee, a batman to his friend.

So typical was the loyal response of a batman to his officer is that of Sam to Frodo.

“Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it [the ring] for you, but I can carry you.”  J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Jonathan, Ruth, and Mary

When we look into the biblical hero stories of men and women like you and me, we find batmen.

David had Jonathan. He also had his mighty men who would go way beyond the call of duty to serve their leader.

Naomi had a daughter in law Ruth, who declared her loyalty.

Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.  Ruth 1:16-18

Jesus had Mary

Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  John 12:1-8

The Batman sees

There is something special about the truest of batmen and batwomen. They see something beyond the immediate struggle. When the one they are serving loses heart, they come alongside and fill up the encouragement tank.

They know that their role is subservient to some higher calling. That there is a mission, and their part to play is backstage.

In real life

I’ve been batman to many. I haven’t dug any actual foxholes, but I have provided places for people to come and find shelter from the storms and battles of life.

It takes the vision of seeing in someone else the battles and challenges they are facing. That takes deep listening.

Then a coming alongside and pouring encouragement into the soul.

For a man, it might well be noticing the remembered movements he is making in his world. He is on a quest, and he stumbles, he falls, you pick him up and tell to keep going.

For a woman, it might well be noticing the beauty that is contained within her. There is an invite there to know something of that divine beauty. She gets hurt, used, and wants to hide, but you confirm the beauty and help her to reveal it once more.

Have we lost batman?

In the foolishness of self individualism, where its all about ‘me’ and less about ‘we’ perhaps we have lost the awareness of batmen and batwomen. The faithful Samwise Gamgee, the loyalty of Ruth, and the self-sacrifice of Mary.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote this

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; ‘The Man in the Arena.’

For every ‘man in the arena,’ there has to be a batman or batwoman in his corner. Someone who will wipe away the dust and sweat and blood. Someone who will give him water and a warm, encouraging pat on the back.

It’s time to acknowledge and endorse the role of Batman and Batwoman and rid Gotham city of despair.

Quotes to consider
  • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
  • Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow.Just walk beside me and be my friend. Albert Camus
  • When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • Encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor,  which literally means “heart”.  So does the word  courage.  To have courage means to have heart.  To encourage  – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart.  Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner
Questions to answer
  1. What are the qualities of a good batman?
  2.  What other examples can you think of people in the background who have been batmen?
  3. How do we encourage those who seem to be like batmen?
Further reading

 

Barry Pearman

Nov 06, 2019
Episode 14 Every Man Needs the Gift of Respect
11:37

The heart of a man dries up without words of encouragement. But the gift of respect can flood his life with hope. Let’s listen well.

All he wanted was some whispers of thankfulness.

Some acknowledgment that what he did mattered. He had worked hard all day, fought his battles, and sweated out a song. Now Otis wanted to come home and be told ‘Well done.’

He wanted his remembered movements to be noticed, affirmed, and validated as having value, particularly to his soul mate, his wife.

I believe Otis Redding wrote the song ‘Respect’ with those thoughts in mind.

Aretha Franklin changed the lyrics and the music and turned it into an anthem for both the women’s rights movement and the black freedom struggles.

Redding’s version was written from the perspective of a hardworking man who can only look forward to getting home and finally receiving the respect he deserves from his family. His version is less a plea for respect and more a comment on a man’s feeling of worth in his work life and at home. He mentions that he’s “about to, just give you all of my money,” and that all he wants in return is respect.

Franklin’s version [she changed the lyrics] is a declaration from a strong, confident woman, who knows that she has everything her man wants. She never does him wrong and demands his “respect.”  Respect – Wikipedia

You can’t demand respect. It’s a gift from a considered observation.

What is respect?

It’s interesting to dig into the Greek language and discover something of what this word means.

phobeó – to show reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience

It also has some fear-based connotations – to put to flight, to terrify, frighten.

But in the context of healthy relationships, it’s about seeing something almost god-like in the other. Something that captures your attention and admiration.

We are not in a relationship with a mere mortal as C.S. Lewis would put it.

Pulling back the curtain of a man’s fumblings and foolishness, we might see something that makes us stand in awe. That’s respect.

The greater story

There is a greater story going on, one that has been going on forever, and we are all part of it.

I can trace a few verses of my story back to 150 years ago to where a young man in England boarded a sailing ship and ventured off to a distant foreign land called New Zealand.

I learned a few years ago that before his embarkation, a church service was held at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, which was pastored by Charles Spurgeon.

Could my story include listening to one of the greatest biblical orators of ‘our’ time?

I wonder if Charles Pearman remembered the story of Abraham leaving the comforts of his home and venturing out into the great unknown.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. Genesis 12:1

Charles and Abraham remembered and moved.

I remember something of God’s nature and character and move into my world to bring something of the greater story to bear. My children are doing the same. I see the strands of an invisible thread knitting its way through our lives.

Invisible threads are the strongest ties.Friedrich Nietzsche

Respect is a gift

Aretha might have been demanding respect, but really it’s a gift.

Men and women who demand you respect them lose it in an instant. That’s called authoritarian leadership, dictatorship, demandingness — all repugnant.

Respect is an acknowledgment of seeing something in the other that makes your heart sing. It’s seeing the remembered movement of a dance that’s been going on forever and cheering on the steps.

How to give the gift of respect to a man

If you want to listen to a man, then listen for the remembered movements he makes.

Every man wants to have some sense of acknowledgment that his life has weight. That there is a good consequence to his remembered movements.

  1. Become a student of awarenessTake note of what he does. How he does it. What seems to make him ‘fully alive.’I have a builder working on my home at the moment. He is very careful and precise with his measurements. He lets me know what time he will be at our home. He has helpful suggestions about what is needed for the job. It seems that he is ‘fully alive’ with a hammer in his hand.
  2. Look for a connection to the greater story.There is a greater, larger story going on that most men are unaware that they are connected in to.I see in my builder the story of millions of men who have shown up for work every day. Building, creating, restoring, bringing order to a disordered world.
  3. Verbalise thankfulnessRespect grow outs of thankfulness. We see a remembered movement and are thankful for it.I observe the workmanship, and then with a specific focus, I acknowledge the movement.‘I so appreciated you texting me each day when you would be coming next. It helped me plan. Thanks for your suggestions too, there is a lot of wisdom behind your ideas. Well done.’

These three steps may seem weird to you, but practice them and watch a mans life grow

Quotes to consider
  • Praise and encouragement are much more effective in changing others’ behavior than is criticism, but which do you use on yourself? D. Riddell
  • The Glory of God is man fully alive.  St Irenaeus
  • It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Questions to answer
  1. What does the word ‘respect’ mean to you?
  2. Men can often feel entitled and demand respect. Why does this never work for them or others?
  3. What is the larger story that a man you know connects into?
Further reading

Why Male Depression feels like being Impotent and Weightless

Barry Pearman

Photo by Lachlan Dempsey on Unsplash

Oct 30, 2019
Episode 13 ‘We need to talk’ about Cortisol
08:59

Criticism, shouting, or being ‘put down’ releases the hormone Cortisol into our blood system. It causes us discomfort. When we know this, we can take greater responsibility for our responses.

Four little words will send a shot of terror into a man’s soul.

‘We need to talk.’

On a local sports radio station, one of the presenters has a little audio cutaway with a deeply serious woman saying those words.

Every man has an instant flash of warning lights and hears alarm bells.

The brain brings us sentences such as

  • What have I done wrong?
  • How have I failed?
  • How am I going to get out of this?
  • Not again?
  • What is it now?

It doesn’t have to be a woman either. It could be anyone: an employer, a coach, a friend.

What words trigger you?

Criticism

What happens is that these four little words, and variances of them, touch down on the shame/ failure button.

It’s an attack on our wellbeing, or at least that is the way the body hears it. We are in danger of something – real or perceived, and our body is ready to respond to the threat.

Shouting

When shouting is involved in communication, it’s like a physical attack.

It may be words, but they can feel like a punch, a prod, a slap. It’s a power attack. ‘My voice is louder, I’m bigger, and I’m stronger.’

Again it’s an attack on our wellbeing, or at least that is the way the body hears it. We are in danger of something – real or perceived, and our body is ready to respond to the threat.

Cortisol

At the top of our kidneys, we have some little glands called the adrenal glands.

One of the hormones created here is Cortisol.

In my favorite book about men, women, and their differences, Patricia Love and Steven Stosny write this.

Cortisol is a hormone secreted during certain negative emotions.

Its job is to get your attention by making you uncomfortable so that your discomfort drives you to do something to make the situation better.

The pain a woman feels when her man shouts at her is caused by the sudden release of cortisol.

A man feels this same discomfort when he is confronted with her unhappiness or criticism.Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. Why Women Talk and Men Walk: How to Improve Your Relationship Without Discussing It

The drive

I’ve always heard about the importance of cortisol in the most threatening of situations such as when you might be under attack by a burglar, or if your house is on fire.

But what about your typical everyday life situations and relationships.  A little criticism here and there, a slightly raised voice. Non-verbal communication threats. A disturbing email lands in your inbox.

You feel threatened, and there is a release of cortisol. You respond in the most natural way to you.

Our response

Most likely, we will choose one of three responses.

  1. Fight – give back as much as we have received and then some. We may lash out criticism or shouting.
  2. Flee – we will run from the problem. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
  3. Freeze – we shut down.

This is our body responding to a threat.

What’s more, if we have had repeated threats over and over again, we get to know what is safe and what is not.

We learn that when we are in these situations, then there is a high chance of feeling uncomfortable (the adrenal glands doing their job).

It’s a cortisol hangover that we are trying to avoid.

He may look like he is avoiding her, but he is essentially trying to avoid a cortisol hangover for the next several hours. Patricia Love and Steven Stosny

Our responsibility

We are ‘wonderfully complex’ as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 139:14.

Hormones are flowing here and there. Neurons are sparking off, and all are happening without any conscious thought from us.

We have a responsibility, though. Our response to others is our responsibility.

When we notice times when we want to criticize, shout, avoid, or seemingly freeze up, we need to take responsibility for ourselves and not blame the other.

‘You make me so mad’ needs to be seen as ‘I get mad when you do this.’ No one can make you mad without your permission.

Believe it or not, no-one can actually make you angry.You choose your own reaction so quickly it’s hard to believe you did it by yourself. D. Riddell

We need to ask ourselves some questions.

  • Why are we responding in this way?
  • Are there ways that I can respond that are healthier?
  • Is my anger/frustration triggering others to fight, flee, or freeze? Sure their response is their responsibility, but am I communicating in a way that is good and whole?

Then we need to look for ways to respond that are healthier, more gracious, and bring out the best.

Paul wrote this centuries ago, but it still applies today.

Be gracious in your speech.The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation,not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4:6

Quotes to consider
  • With heavy doses of cortisol, shame hurts like hell and drains off all available energy—all you want to do is crawl into a hole. Its message is that something is producing rejection or failure—stop it and cover it up! Patricia Love and Steven Stosny
  • Monitor your thinking and deliberately dwell on the virtues of your difficult friend, or negative feelings will surely follow. D. Riddell
  • Accepting responsibility for your own responses and choices is the first step to a healed life. (Christians call this “re-pentance.”) D. Riddell
  • Instead of spending our lives running towards our dreams, we are often running away from a fear of failure or a fear of criticism. Eric Wright
Questions to answer
  1. How do you respond to various stressful situations? Fight, flee, or freeze?
  2.  Paul tells us to ‘bring out the best in others in a conversation.’ How do we do this?
  3. Do others make you angry, sad, frustrated?
Further reading

 

 

 

Barry Pearman

Oct 24, 2019
Episode 12 Are you Strong Enough to be my … Friend
08:41

If you knew me would you still love me? We all need others who will be strong enough to handle what comes from the inner world of each other.

When they had opened up, they looked at me and wondered if I would reject them. So many others had.

I have a face I cannot showI make the rules up as I goJust try and love me if you can

Are you strong enough to be my man

When I’ve shown youThat I just don’t careWhen I’m throwing punches in the airWhen I’m broken down and I can’t stand Would you be man enough to be my manSheryl Crow – Are you strong enough to be my man

 

I like Sheryl Crow’s lyrics.

I know the person she is writing about. I have met them many times.

All with different faces and varying stories, but underneath the macho or the makeup there is an inner world of struggle and outer behavior of ‘throwing punches in the air’.

They want to be known, explored, discovered and touched but is there anyone strong enough to be able to do this with them.

They want their failing movements into their world acknowledged and affirmed but that requires honesty and openness.

They have beauty, too easily self dismissed, and they long to be embraced and cherished.

Are you strong enough?

Being strong enough is to admit our weakness. That we don’t have all the answers and that we are also stumbling in the dark.

It’s not so much ‘the blind leading the blind and both falling into a pit’ Matthew 15:14 it’s more ‘I’ve got my dirty glasses on so perhaps I can walk beside you and we can find a path’.

Are you strong enough to own the weakness in yourself? That you don’t have it all together.

The vision beyond the moment

It can look very dark and ugly when people get real about their inner struggles. Their darkness can creep over you like an all-engulfing shadow that wants to swallow you up.

I’ve listened to those places. I’ve seen the black hole of despair and felt the pull.

You want to run because you don’t know what to do.

You always want to be able to do something, but it’s in the act of doing seemingly nothing, of just being there, that you are offering the most precious gift – your presence.

You hold a flickering candle of hope for them. It’s a compelling vision that things can be different.

That one has to pass through the night before the first beams of a sunrise can caress the face. That with the right direction another step forward can be taken.

This vision is not something grand and over the top. It’s more that things can get better a little bit at a time. It’s achievable.

The power of consistency

People who are ‘strong enough’ say something like this.

‘I don’t have a perfectly clear plan of what is required to help, but I’m going to be consistent in turning up.  I will be there.’

It’s being honest about how much can be offered and then following through.

People who might ‘make the rules up as they go’ need those who have a solidness to them. It’s a consistency they might rail against but it's this relationship a mutual respect may develop.

Man enough to be my man

What does it mean to be ‘Man enough’?

The Hebrew word for Male is ‘Zakar’ (Zac ab) and means to be one that remembers, recalls, calls to mind. It’s one who remembers then moves into the chaos of the world facing them.

Being ‘Man enough’ is to remember truth and goodness, then moving with grace, purpose and presence into the world of those who are ‘broken down and can’t stand’.

You don’t have to be macho to be a man.

Can you do this?

Are you one that is strong enough to help another pilgrim with a heavy load?

I believe you can.

Love deeply. Care wisely.

Quotes to consider
  • Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You
  • Compassion means entering the suffering of another in order to lead the way out.  Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
  • Talk’s easy, work’s hard. Consistent trustworthy behavior over time equals trust. Notice the word consistent is emphasized. Consistency is the key to the process. Stefanie Carnes Mending A Shattered Heart
  • Love acts like a giant magnet that pulls out of us, like iron filings, every recorded injury, every scar. Terrence Real
  • It takes immense courage to walk in solidarity with the suffering of others, and even our own. Richard Rohr Eager to Love
Questions to answer
  1. What strength do you fall back on when faced with someone in struggle?
  2. What’s it like to not have all the answers?
  3. What have been the qualities you have seen in those who have been ‘strong enough’ for you?
Further reading

Boundaries of the Heart are Lines of Love and Respect

Six Keys on How to Pray for the Healing of a Mental Illness

Barry Pearman

Photo by Arvydas Venckus on Unsplash

Oct 17, 2019
Episode 11 Stop ‘Shoulding’ and Start ‘Coulding’ Yourself
08:51

‘Shoulds’ can pile up on the shoulders and shape our thinking. But we have efficacy. We have the power to make a change and stop ‘shoulding.’ We don’t have to live under the slavery of a ‘should.’

It was always the same message. ‘You should be doing better.’ 

‘You’re not getting as good as grades as Bill and Clive runs faster than you. What’s the matter with you? You’re just not trying hard enough’. 

Taken on as messages of personal performance, we start to ‘should’ on ourselves. We compare ourselves to others and make judgments about our performance. 

‘Well, at least I’m not like them’ or ‘I’m not as good as them.’ The pendulum swings from pride to self-loathing. 

We are given very clear messages about who we are to measure up against, and it is always someone else. 

The ‘should’ on the shoulder

Recently I won an escooter in a competition.

It’s pretty cool, and I decided to take it out for a spin. I came back, was telling my wife about my ride and how much fun it was. But then I went out, and some random bird had dropped a poop bomb on it.

How accurate was that bombing raid? Right where I put my feet was this white splash of bird poop. I should have brought it inside.

Many of us have been ‘shoulded on’ for much of our lives.

The ‘shoulds’ of others morphe into our internal voice. An inner critic sitting permanently within us expressing little snipes and barbs.

The Yoke of a ‘should.’

The ‘shoulds’ add up to become an obligatory oppressive weight bearing down on the shoulders.

I’ve known people who seem to be more like a beast of burden than a person of freedom.

A beast of burden is an animal that is used to carry heavy loads or to pull a cart or plow. The animal has little choice in the matter. The yoke is placed upon it, and it must labor under its rigidity.

But we are not beasts of burden. We have choice and efficacy, the power to make a change.

The shoulds of religion

Religion has many ‘shoulds.’ The rules, the expectations, the rites of passage. All the little shoulds, both spoken and unspoken.

Here is but a few

  • Go to church every Sunday
  • Give a certain percentage of income
  • Stand while you sing
  • Pray a certain amount of times each day
  • Wear these types of clothes

All of the ‘shoulds’ can carry a subtle little message. If you do these behaviors, then you will fit in, life will work out, and God will be pleased with you.

The power of a ‘could.’

To disempower a ‘should,’ you need to replace it with a ‘could’ and then ask why.

If a ‘should’ implies obligation and offers a condemnation burden, then ‘could’ speaks of choice, efficacy, and the gift of options.

‘I should have called Dave’ can be changed to ‘I could have called Dave but didn’t because I don’t have his phone number.’

‘I should have Daves phone number’  can be changed to ‘I could get Daves phone number by calling Jim.’

If you’re ‘shoulding’ on yourself, dig a little deeper and ask why.

If others are ‘shoulding’ on, you ask why? Does it say more about them than it does about you? Are their expectations realistic to what you know about yourself?

Kristen struggles with anxiety and depression. She routinely stays in bed all day. It’s a dark world. On the outside, she looks healthy, able to function ok, and have a few friends.

So when her family says ‘You should get a job’ it’s like a sack of cement lands on her soul. She thinks, ‘I am useless. All my friends have jobs, boyfriends and I don’t.’ Shame crushes her back into her bed.

Perhaps though she could say to herself. ‘Do they know about depression, anxiety? Do they know how many times I have tried to stick at a job? Yes, I could have a job, but I know that at this stage of my recovery, having a job would cause me a lot of stress, too much for me to handle. Instead, my ‘job’ is getting well, going to see my counselor, exercise, and mindfulness.’

Kristen finds freedom from the ‘shoulds.’ The ‘coulds’ offer her the power to take the next step. Its all about the options, not the obligations.

‘I could have done that, but why didn’t I? Perhaps I need to explore why.’

A lighter yoke

A wise farmer will craft a yoke to the shape of the animal so that it is comfortable and doesn’t rub harshly.

Recently I met a lady whose business was to custom make saddles for horses. She would come and measure both the horse and the rider and then create a saddle that would be perfect for them both.

Here is what Jesus said.

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:29-30

I imagine Jesus coming and lifting off a heavy yoke of ‘shoulds’. Then moment by moment, shaping a yoke that fits perfectly to you. It’s light, comfortable, and serves instead of enslaves.

Quotes to consider
  • The answer to having too much obligation in your life is to own your own choice – to quit playing the victim’s role and risk disappointing someone.  D. Riddell
  • Love wins over guilt any day. It is sad that we settle for the short-run effectiveness of shaming people instead of the long-term life benefits of grace-filled transformation. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • In the moments of insecurity and crisis, “shoulds” and “oughts” don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep “yeses” that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner. Lao Tzu
  • Should; shouldn’t; ought; oughtn’t—the enemies of contentment. Frank Delaney

  • It’s hard to feel excited about God’s love when all your religion consists of is ‘count your blessings, pay your tithes, kick the devil, and don’t skip Church’. D. Riddell

  • Real self-esteem comes from within; it is the existential, spiritual truth that we have value and worth intrinsically, because we are here and breathing, not because of anything we have or can do, nor how others regard us. Terrence Real
Questions to consider
  1. How have ‘shoulds’ dominated your life?
  2. What would a well-fitting lighter yoke look like to you?
  3. A ‘could’ asks a question. Do you think ‘coulding’ might be more helpful than ‘shoulding’?
Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

Oct 02, 2019
Episode 10 Washing the Memories Free of Trauma
09:09

Some trauma memories keep us locked into our past. But there is a cleansing that can happen. We need to bring ourselves to the presence of one who will wash us pure.

I didn't know what to do when they were sharing some of the stories of their past. I had known this person for decades, but only now, they were sharing something new, painful, and full of trauma.

It explained why they held certain beliefs, behaved in specific ways, and seemed to be haunted by a ghost of the past.

What could I do to help them with the wafting stench of an old trauma that was once again drowning their present?

You want to go back and stop the trauma, but there is no time machine.

Perhaps a quick prayer and get out of the trauma zone A.S.A.P.

'This person needs professional help,' and a thought of an escape route appears.

The shame of another time 

A dominant feature of when you have these terrible memories is the utter shame that you have them. You fear to have them exposed. You don't want anyone to know.

So you hide and try and sort them out yourself.

You feel like you're a 'second class citizen' to God, of being on the outside.

Everyone else is pure, good, and clean. God would love them but not you. Why would God love you with all this trauma? Not good enough.

Memories and traumas can pollute the thinking and stigmatize the soul. They shut down the true self from expressing itself.

In biblical times, and even in many countries today, there were a group of people kept on the outside of society. They were the lepers.

No one was to come near them. They certainly could not come before God. There were holiness requirements needed to be met. Washing, ritual inspection by priests, sacrifices, all required before connection and acceptance.

Jesus washes

Jesus was one that was known for connecting deeply with those on the outside of acceptability. This was offensive to some.

He was also pretty harsh to those who felt outward appearance ('I've got my life together') was more important than the inner life.

Blind Pharisees! First cleanse the inside of the cup, and then the whole cup will be clean.

“Woe to you, Pharisees, and you religious leaders! You are like beautiful mausoleums—full of dead men’s bones, and of foulness and corruption. You try to look like saintly men, but underneath those pious robes of yours are hearts besmirched with every sort of hypocrisy and sin. Matthew 23:26-28

In one of the most beautiful stories of Jesus, we find him washing feet. He takes on the role of the lowest servant in a household and washes the feet of his friends.

He got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. John 13:4, 5

Jesus turns the world upside down. His disciples then and now are still in shock.

Sprinkling you clean

We used to have to wash before coming to God (Exodus 30:20), now God washes us.

For here’s what I’m going to do: I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. Ezekiel 36:25 

Those memories, traumas, moments where your life course was transgressed, they can be washed clean.

It won't take the event away, but the washing will clean off the pus and heal the wound.

The expression of a love that is greater than the trauma experienced will overwhelm the pain of the memory.

We learn of something greater than that which has locked us down to the past.

Our feet sense the presence of walking an ancient path of goodness.

Stand at the crossroads, and look,    and ask for the ancient paths,where the good way lies; and walk in it,    and find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

How to be washed

Washing is a matter of ongoing prayerful attentiveness.

As memories come and float into your awareness, capture them.

Invite Christ to come with a bowl of pure, clean, sparkling water. Water that is full of truth and love.

See Christ pour water over your brain that washes through every neural pathway that contains those memories — replacing the pain with his presence.

Ask Christ to debunk the memory of the pain and fill it with an awareness of him.

Repeat this over and over again. Every time a trigger is pulled present yourself to the high priest (Christ) for cleansing.

Traumatic memories don't have to keep you bound to another time. We can ask Christ to wash our thinking with his presence.

Quotes to consider
  • Grace is amazing, by disorienting us it properly orients us. Ronald Rolheiser
  • Love acts like a giant magnet that pulls out of us, like iron filings, every recorded injury, every scar. Terrence Real
  • The key to growing any psychological resource, including compassion, is to have repeated experiences of it that get turned into lasting changes in neural structure or function. Rick Hanson.
  • We cannot attain the presence of God. We‘re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness Richard Rohr 
  • Redeemed pain is more impressive than removed pain Phillip Yancey Renovare podcast - Redeemed Pain
  • God's healing has more to do with learning to worship than it does with getting life fixed. Craig Barnes 
Questions to answer
  1. What is your immediate internal response to someone sharing pain?
  2. How would you respond to Christ washing you?
  3. How are we to grow awareness of Christ with us and his desire to wash our painful memories?
Further reading

https://turningthepage.info/dirt-spit-mud-and-6-things-to-learn-about-healing/

https://turningthepage.info/six-keys-on-how-to-pray-for-the-healing-of-a-mental-illness/

https://turningthepage.info/is-my-mental-illness-because-of-sin-in-my-life/

Photo by Taylor Harding on Unsplash

Sep 25, 2019
Episode 9 Three Responses to Chaos
09:34

When chaos comes, or we become aware of the mess we are in, we have choices to make. Charge at it, retreat from it, or engage in the mystery.  

All the nicely laid out plans had been turned upside down. I had a recipe for life, and now all the measurements and list of ingredients had fallen off the page. It was a mess, chaos.

The question was what to do next.

The word chaos comes from the Greek word khaos – denoting a gaping void or chasm.

You’ve been there, I’m sure.

To varying degrees, we have all faced times when life was disordered, seemingly out of control, messy. It could be a relationship breakup, illness, job loss, a hurting family member or friend. Really anything that shakes your life to the core.

There is also the daily chaos that you walk in. Nothing is ever straight forward. There are always challenges, obstacles, and areas of confusion.

You want to move forward, but you don’t know-how.

You might retreat from the chasm, but it’s still there.  In that ‘no – mans land’ of indecision, depression and anxiety stalk around you looking to take you down.

I have found that there are generally three responses to chaos.

Three responses to chaos
  1. We charge at the chaosI think of the biblical character of Samson taking on his world of chaos with all his muscular strength. He runs right into the battle, arms flailing, war cry, stamping his will on the problem. However, instead of heroic success, he ends up as a prisoner with his eyes gouged out.

     

    Then there is Peter on the mountain when Christ meets with Elijah and Moses. He has to do something. He looks at the chaos and offers to make a tent. Matthew 17:1-4

    We do the same. Its easy to make snap judgments, speak when we need to listen, determine how things should be. We act without consideration.

  2. We run from chaosPerhaps the chaos will be resolved without my involvement.God brought chaos to Jonah, and he ran. Moses ran into the desert and Elijah into a cave.

     

    We want to avoid the struggle.

    The chaos seems too much, and so we run and hide.

    Like Adam and Eve, we gather up a few fig leaves and try to hide our vulnerability and nakedness.

  3. We engage in the mystery

All of the characters above had to come to a place where they engaged in the mystery of the chaos.

Life is not like a crime novel where the mystery is solved and you, the observer, can return knowing that all is well in the world.

Engaging with the chaos involves moving into it and asking questions which may have no clear cut answers.

We enter a dark room.  Stoping, we let our eyes adjust to the darkness and try to remember what we know of the layout.  We pray for the first glimmers of sunrise.

How to engage with mystery

The first mention of chaos in the Bible is in the very first verses of the creation poem. It sets the stage for the rest of life.

The earth was without form [formlessness, confusion, unreality, emptiness]  and void [emptiness], and darkness [darkness, obscurity] was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering [to grow soft, relax] over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2   Bible Hub

Over that place of chaos and mystery, God was in a place of softness, relaxed with what was happening. No stressing out.

Gods invite is to become relaxed with mystery and chaos, knowing that something good can creatively come out of it.

We then speak and ask for light to appear.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3

We speak questions into this chaos, knowing full well that there may be no clear cut answers.

Then we listen for whispers of truth to guide our stumbling.  We pray for light to be spoken into darkness. A glimmer we can hold onto.

Mystery and chaos do not have to be feared. In the chaos, there is an invite to trust.

Quotes to consider
  • “I want to be part of a church that neither reduces mystery to formulas to get what I want nor describes the Christian life in such lofty, abstract terms that I stay lost in the fog.  I want my church to help me identify the categories I can think in and reflect on as I decide how to navigate my way through life, as I make the thousand decisions that life requires me to make every day and handle its thousand challenges.” Larry Crabb Real Church,  Chapter 17, “Signposts Pointing into the Fog,” pp. 104
  • Masculinity begins to grow when a man asks questions for which he knows there are no answers. No man can escape the sphere of mystery. If he lives in relationship and has any desire at all for the relationship to work, he will face unsolvable confusion. If a man is to be fully a man, he must learn what it means to move in darkness. And that will require him to admit “I don’t know what to do” with a despair so real that no recipe will help. Larry Crabb The Silence of Adam pg 66
  • Am I willing to move into the mystery of relationship with another human being, renouncing all efforts to control the outcome?” Larry Crabb The Silence of Adam pg 110
  • The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life, or what we call “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • The Jewish community has a unique expression to describe this Creator: “He who spoke and the world came into being.” He is a God who uses language to establish relationship. He does not retreat from darkness and chaos. Rather, he speaks into it. And after his creative activity, he keeps the Sabbath.  Larry Crabb The Silence of Adam pg 90
Questions to answer
  1. What is your most natural response to chaos?
  2. How does it feel to ask questions where there are no clear cut answers?
  3. Have you had a ‘belly of a big fish’ experience? How dark was it?
Further reading

Life’s not Fair! There is a Mystery to be Known

Only Brave People Come Here – The Place of the Soul

Barry Pearman

Photo by Giga Khurtsilava on Unsplash

Sep 19, 2019
Episode 8 Every Footprint Needs Affirmation
09:10

Often life can feel like it's one step forward and two steps back, but with a few words of affirmation, another step can be taken. Affirm the small footprints of the struggle and evoke the good to grow.

He knew many people didn't like him. He had made commitments then broken them. His struggles were well known, and many had tried to help him, but he had burned them out. He was affirmation hungry.

There are many people out there that simply need a hug and to be told 'You're doing okay.'

Are you one of them?

I remember someone years ago suggesting to me that supporting people with Mental Illnesses is like seeing people taking one step forward and then two steps back.

Yes, there was some truth in this, but this person had not seen the journey underneath the relapse — the little learnings along the route of struggle and the necessity to affirm any steps taken.

Can I affirm you?

The word 'affirmation' has a populist movement attached to it.

Self-help gurus encourage you to have a set of affirmations that you say to yourself each day to promote new beliefs and behaviors in your life.

But I have found that the very best affirmations have come from those who have listened well to the steps forward and the slipping steps back. They keep listening and offering me encouraging truth.

  • 'I believe in you.'
  • 'We can do this together.'
  • 'You're not alone.'
  • 'You have value.'

To affirm is to assert that something is true. There is a solid assurance, a strengthening of position.

When Sarah laughed

The bible tells the story of Abraham and Sarah and how God came to them in old age to say to them, they were to have a baby. Sarah laughs at this announcement.

It wasn't a laugh of joy. It was a laugh of disbelief, a mocking of a gift.

She had not connected into the larger story going on. There was a dismissal of God.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.”  Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 

Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 

The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 

But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.” Genesis 18:10-15

Sarah did not affirm the footprints of God moving toward her.

If affirming is to strengthen, then to not affirm is to weaken, to deny what is good and right. Sarah laughed at God and Abram.

What happens in you when you are laughed at?

For many of us, it will be a loss of confidence in who we are and what we do. We question whether God could be that good.

Affirmation of the footprints

I remember as a child going fishing with my father at a beach called Te Arai. We would walk along the beach with our rods and a sack of fishing gear.

His large feet pressing into the sand and me semi leaping from footprint to footprint. Then we would come to the rocky outcrop that jutted out from the beach.

He would say to me to just follow the route he was taking. I would follow the edges and ledges above roaring seas, and he would affirm me as I jumped from rock to rock. I would gain confidence with every word.

Good conversations

When we listen well, we note the footprints.

We listen for the movement of something good, and we affirm it. It's like we bend down and firm the ground around their feet so they can keep moving onward.

Laughing, mocking, denying or rushing past will stifle the goodness that is there. We listen for the small millimeter movements of change, then we affirm them.

What this does in the other is that it releases confidence that they are being heard and when you feel deeply understood then you are more likely to share another word or two.

Good conversations evoke a confidence to speak.

In your conversations today listen for the footprints. Those places of movement where people are maybe taking one step forward but slipping back two. Listen for the struggle and affirm them for the effort made.

Spiritual Exercise

Ask God for the awareness of someone that needs affirmation, that sense that they have value and importance. Listen for the words they say and ask God to help you to notice the footprints that need firming up.

Quotes to consider
  • A man’s deepest terror is weightlessness, the absence of solid substance that others recognize and appreciate. Larry Crabb
  • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
  • Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden. Ian MacLaren
  • To affirm a person is to see the good in them that they cannot see in themselves and to repeat it in spite of appearances to the contrary. Please, this is not some Pollyanna optimism that is blind to the reality of evil, but rather like a fine radar system that is tuned in to the true, the good, and the beautiful. When a person is evoked for who she is, not who she is not, the most often result will be the inner healing of her heart through the touch of affirmation. Brennan Manning The furious longing of God
  • Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. Mark Twain
  • Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one. C.S. Lewis

Questions to Answer
  1. What do you need to do to affirm someone?
  2. What is it like to dis-affirmed as Sarah did to Abram and God?
  3. Have you ever been deeply affirmed? What was it like?
Further reading

https://turningthepage.info/friends-activity-builds-mental-health/

https://turningthepage.info/god-sets-the-lonely-in-families/

https://turningthepage.info/youre-not-a-problem-its-not-who-you-are/

Barry Pearman

Photo by Sahand Hoseini on Unsplash

 

Sep 11, 2019
Episode 7 To Listen to them Be Quick to Listen to Your 'Self'
07:35

Listening to others can be frustrating, but when we listen to our ‘self,’ we might find the key to compassionate listening to others. Going deep, where life is indeed happening, requires us to stop and be slow. Be quick to listen to your self.

I wondered why I was getting so angry and frustrated with them.

I had listened to them, shared some wisdom, and nothing had changed. Why wouldn’t they follow through and do what I wanted them to do?

Surface level listening will be ok for most of our communication needs, but for the deep, essential soul questions, it takes discipline to slow down and give focused, attentive space for the other.

Be quick to listen

In the Bible, a writer by the name of James gives this advice.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters:You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak,and slow to get angry. James 1:19

Why would James include an emotion such as anger in a sentence about communication?

I believe that anger and frustration are often related to not having expectations met.

I ask my son to wash the dishes. He agrees but doesn’t do it. I get feelings of anger and frustration. The expectation of clean dishes wasn’t met.

He didn’t listen well to understand that this was important to me.

I didn’t listen well to understand that he had an important school assignment due tomorrow.

Had we both been quick to listen and slow to speak, we might have negotiated the problem better.

The conversation might have gone along these lines.

‘Would you be able to wash the dishes’?‘Yes, I can, but I need to work on my assignment for the next hour. Is that ok?’

If your feeling angry and frustrated with someone, then I would suggest that you might not be listening deep enough.

Listen to yourself

What are your motivations when you come to listen to others?

Here are some suggestions

Perhaps you want to

  • Fix them
  • Solve the problems they have
  • Make your life easier
  • Manipulate them to do something

We enter into conversations for many different reasons, some of them not so noble.

So the first person we need to listen to is ourselves.

What is going on inside of us?

This is a discipline of laying aside our agenda for the sake of someone else.

Listening to the other

Listening to the other is going to require slowing down on your behalf and asking questions with no agenda other than to understand.

You may want to ask these questions.

  • ‘Tell me more. I want to understand.’
  • ‘I didn’t quite get that, can you explain it further.’
  • ‘This is what I heard. Did I get that right?’

Watch the tone of your voice. Note your body language.

Anything that expresses anger or frustration will shut the communication flow down.

Connection

The writer James wasn’t just talking about communication. He was focusing on connection. That a conversation would go to a place where there was a deep connection of the soul to soul.

This is what we long and crave for.

Someone who will get us. Having another wanderer who can share our journey.

Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of loveto another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb

Spiritual Exercise

Over the next week listen for signs of anger and frustration in your life. How many of them are due, in part, to not have been deeply listened to?

You can’t control others, but you take responsibility to be a good listener yourself. Look for moments in conversations where you can take the conversation into connection. Ask further questions where you seek out more clarification?

Quotes to consider
  • Competent people do a good job—dentists, plumbers, schoolteachers, and technicians—but it is inadequate people, people who know that they are inadequate, that become effectively usable by God, by the Spirit of God in the work of Soul Care. Larry Crabb
  • To be more aware of the other person, first, become more aware of yourself. Without self-awareness, self cannot be laid aside, in order to listen. D. Riddell
  • Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech.” Parker J. Palmer.
  • When you speak to me about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved: you want to be seen and heard, to have your truth acknowledged and honored. Parker J. Palmer.
  • Good work is relational, and its outcomes depend on what we are able to evoke from each other. Parker J. Palmer
  • It is usually most helpful to ask questions that are more about the person than about the problem. Parker J. Palmer 
Questions to answer
  1. Why do you think we are more likely to be quick to speak and slow to listen?
  2. Describe the aspects of a conversation that you felt turned into a connection?
  3. How much vulnerability is required of the listener to listen deeply?
Further reading

Please. No Fixing, Advising, Saving or Straightening Out

 

Why Men Don’t Talk. 26 Reasons for Silence

 

More of Ruth and Less of Dr. Bob – Being a Companion

 

Barry Pearman

Photo by Anita Peeples on Unsplash

Sep 05, 2019
Episode 6 A Mountain in Your Life? Where does your Help Come From?
07:08

When we keep looking at the mountain of struggle, we can feel crushed, but when we know someone greater than the mountain is with us, we can find the help we need. Mountains move when we meditate on Gods goodness.

Where I live, I’m surrounded by mountains. They’re not very high mountains. The highest peak is only 196 meters high and has the name Mt. Eden and is a dormant volcanic cone.

The highest mountain I have been up to is Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs. At 4302 meters it’s so high that the breathing is difficult, but the views are fantastic.

A Mountain can be  imposing

When you go to a place where there are many mountains it can be imposing.

They dominate the scenery. Everywhere you look you see this fortress looming up into the sky.

When you are at the base of the mountain, you look up, and you feel small. Tonnes and tonnes of rock piled up. It’s awe-inspiring, but it also blocks out the sun.

In the shadowed valleys it can get bitterly cold and dark.

Mental Mountain

There are times when many of us can feel overwhelmed and undermined by the sense of living under a mountain. Guilt, shame, failure, loss, depression, anxiety bear down on us.

It’s always there. It won’t shift, and it looms heavy with a cold shadow.

We try to scale the mountain, fight against its slide. Perhaps we were never meant to fight the mountain anyway.

Where does my help come from

The Psalmist writes this.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—    where does my help come from?My help comes from the Lord,    the Maker of heaven and earth.Psalm 121: 1,2

There are many interpretations of what this beautiful psalm might mean.

I think that the poet fully understood the dominating effect of a mountain.

They look up at an imposing mountain: the struggle, the challenge, and the hard work. In our day, we would look for the chair lift or cable car — the quick, easy, and safe option.

The Psalmist never had google he only had God. The best option was to build a life of intimate prayer.

The help needed came from an intimate heartbeat relationship with God.

The mountain to move 

I have mountains in my thinking I want to move.

Something I have found is that the more I focus on the mountains, the more I become mesmerized by them. They draw my attention in so that nothing else matters.

My attention shifts away from the ‘maker of heaven and earth.’

The Psalmist calls us to look at the creator, not the mountain.

Those mountains of trouble won’t last. They are temporal. God is eternal.

Mountains move

It’s surprising how when we shift our gaze back onto the creator, the fueled feelings can change. They seem to lose their power in the presence of the all-powerful.

As we commit our mountains, hills, and road bumps to our walking companion, we learn to listen for the conversation going on.

Together we find alternative routes through. The struggles lose their power to dominate our thinking.

Mountains move when we find Gods goodness.

Spiritual Exercise

Name the mountains in your life, then notice every time that they form in your thinking. Gently bring your gaze back to Jesus, who is walking beside you. As you gaze on Jesus and listen to his words, note how the mountains lose their power.

A reflection on the road to Emmaus

Quotes to consider
  • Believing all of my emotions is the shortest way into the loop of insanity. First the truth, then faith in the truth, then the feelings will come around. D. Riddell
  • We cannot attain the presence of God. We’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness Richard Rohr
  • God is not absent. It is we who fail to notice divine presence. It’s all a matter of awareness. Note: how aware are you of God, right at this moment. David G. Benner
  • Being present simply means being fully where you are. David G. Benner PhD and Richard Rohr
  • Each moment of awareness is a small awakening, and each awakening—no matter how insignificant it might seem—can be a doorway to becoming. David G. Benner
  • What you pay attention to—what you rest your mind on—is the primary shaper of your brain. Rick Hanson
Questions to answer
  1. What are the mountains that get your attention?
  2. What would Jesus say to you as you wak the pilgrim’s path?
  3. How do you focus your thinking on the ‘maker of heaven and earth’?
Further reading 

 

 

 

Barry Pearman

Photo by Kyle Johnson on Unsplash

Aug 28, 2019
Episode 5 Your Failure in Life Needs Love
11:58

One failure in life seems to collect another failure, but love can cut through any collection of failures. We need to listen for the shame that has been collected then meet it with heartwarming arms.

If you can talk about failure, you can talk about anything.

As he opened up and talked about his failures, I wondered what I was supposed to do.

Questions rumbled through my mind.

  • Was he genuine?
  • Was he seeking sympathy?
  • What wasn’t he telling me?
  • Was this a pity party?

No, he owned the failures. He was taking responsibility for the mess he had made of life, and he just wanted me to know.

She told me the story of a time where she had made a terrible decision.  Now, this failure had other failures clinging to it. The weight of it was taking her down. She wanted me to know. 

Cleaning the life drains

One of my less than desirable jobs as a gardener is to clean drains.

It’s fascinating how one little twig will get caught on the side of a drain. Then, later on, another small branch will come downstream and collide with it. They knit together.

Then some leaves float down and mesh in amongst the twigs.

Fine silt washes into the knitting and builds a base. Then weed seeds settle on the soil, spread their roots, and block the drain.

It stays blocked until something quite abrupt and unsettling comes and disturbs the clog. Usually, it’s my spade driving deep and long into the mess and cleaning it out.

Collecting failure

Some people collect stamps, some china dolls, most of us collect our failures.

Little failures snag into our life. They bind and weave themselves into the psyche. Then another failure happens, and it twists itself in.

Failures accumulate, and you take on the personality of a walled-up dam.

You see yourself as a failure. Any successes and any joys get shredded down to being yet another failure.

Shame and guilt

When understanding failure, it’s crucial to know the difference between shame and guilt.

Guilt is focused on a behavior that has been done. ‘I did something wrong.’ I am guilty of stealing a cookie from the cookie jar. I did it. I own the action I took. I own the thinking that led me down that pathway to opening the pantry door, prying open the tin and devouring the cookie.

Shame is focused on the self. ‘I am bad.’ I am a cookie thief, a notorious biscuit bandit. I steal, rob, and destroy cookies. I have the full personality of a cookie criminal.

Guilt: I made a mistake.Shame: I am a mistake.

The early messaging

How many of us have a deep belief that we are a mistake?

When I was researching for the post Why Men Don’t Talk I received this message on Facebook  as a reason why men don’t talk

‘Being told as a child that “You’re a failure,” “You’re useless” “You’re a parasite” “You know nothing.”

Tears welled up in me when I thought of a small child being hammered with shame. It’s abuse, emotional abuse.

Like little twigs gathered together, these would have collected further shame messages that floated by. They would have dug deep into this mans thinking.

Shame collects shame like a rotting carcass collects flys. It’s repulsive, smelly, and ultimately destructive.

When we talk

It’s love that shatters shame.

We don’t want to talk about our failures as failures can be shame buttons.

Talk about them, and others have the opportunity to push the button and spread the word that you’re a failure.

Jesus and Peter

Jesus and Peter were the closest of friends. Where Jesus went, Peter went.

You couldn’t separate them, and so in the time when Jesus needed Peters friendship the most, you would expect Peter to be bound right next to him.

Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Slap in the face to Jesus. The message to Jesus was ‘You’re truly alone.’

A natural consequence you would think to this behavior would be Jesus rejecting Peter.

‘I can’t trust you anymore;I thought I knew you?;Why did you reject me?

I would love to know what that first conversation between Jesus and Peter was like after this event. What were the verbal and non-verbal messages being sent and received?

I wonder what happened? We don’t know.

We know that on the third meeting, Peter leaped out of a boat, swam to the shore and warmed himself around a fire Jesus had built. Words flowed, and love exchanged. Peter was restored, and the vision was resurrected.

Here is what I think happened in the first meeting.

I think forgiveness flowed and shame got shattered by love. Like my sharp spade cutting through the dross of a drain.

Love remembers no wrongs

Paul knew the dark shadow of shame well, and I believe that it was his ‘thorn in the flesh.’

He also knew about love.

Love keeps no record of wrongs 1 Corinthians 13:5

When we love well, we don’t keep a record of what this person did or did not do.

We learn to let it go. No shaming of others for past offenses. We don’t enslave them to the burden of another time.

We don’t shame ourselves either. Self-love is as valuable as loving others. We forgive ourselves and learn from our failures.

You’re not a wretch so don’t sing yourself into a shame-based spirituality.

Read more – Self Compassion for a ‘Wretch like me.’

Perhaps some loving self-talk might shift the silt of shame.

I am not the man I once was.I am not the woman I once wasI am not the sum of my failuresI am not the sum of my successesI am one who is loved, held and cherished for all that I am

One failure in life seems to collect another failure, but love can cut through any collection of failures. We need to listen for the shame that has been collected then meet it with open, loving, and forgiving arms.

Quotes to consider
  • Shame causes us to see our identity as flawed rather than seeing ourselves as having flaws. Dan Allender
  • Religion without grace can tie shame around our souls like a choke chain and never offers relief. Brennan Manning
  • Shame loves secrecy. The most dangerous thing to do after a shaming experience is hide or bury our story. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes. Brené Brown
  • To be known means that you allow your shame and guilt to be exposed—in order for them to be healed. Curt Thompson
  • Your failures are just another occasion and opportunity to learn and practice love, even toward yourself. You deserve mercy too. Richard Rohr
  • When the failure has prompted some serious personal learning, then it’s no longer truly a failure. D. Riddell
  • Unless a bishop, teacher, or minister has on some level walked through suffering, failure, or humiliation, his or her words will tend to be fine but superficial, OK but harmless, heard by the ears but unable to touch the soul. Richard Rohr
  • Life, if we are honest about it, is made up of many failings and fallings, amidst all of our hopeful growing and achieving. Richard Rohr
  • Christianity is not about being right. It’s about being loved. Curt Thompson Questions to consider
  1. What stops us from talking about our failures?
  2. What do you think Jesus said to Peter in that first encounter?
  3. How has failure collected other failures in your life?
  4. What is the cumulative effect of collecting failures?
Further reading

Comparisonitis – The Compulsion to Compare Yourself

Self Compassion for a ‘Wretch like me’

Mental Health is … Giving Grace to Failure and Rethinking Expectations

Barry Pearman

Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash

Aug 21, 2019
Episode 4 Why Men Don’t Talk. 26 Reasons for Silence
11:38

Men aren’t talking, but they need to. We need to enter the cave of man’s mind and encourage him to talk. Words flow when we listen well.

It was early in the morning, and I was driving to the first job of the day. The day was starting dark, cold, and wet, and I was listening to the radio when I heard a deep and serious voice come to my ears.

Friday, August 9th [2019] is Radio Hauraki’s ‘No Talk Day.’We’re not talking, to encourage Kiwi men to start.

Last year, 668 Kiwis took their own lives.475 of these were men. [71%]

On average, more than 1 Kiwi male took their own life each day.It could be your mate, your dad, your brother, or even your son.

Sometimes men feel they can’t open up about what’s affecting themso they just don’t talk.

Which is why on August 9th on Radio Hauraki, we’re not talking.No shows, no ads, no news, no traffic.

We’re not talking, so you can.

If you’re thinking someone you know might be struggling, it’s time to reach out.

Ask them they feel.Tell them you care.

We know it’s hard, but it might be the most important conversation you ever have.

NO ANNOUNCERS NO NEWS NO TRAFFIC NO ADS

Radio Hauraki

 

It got me thinking about why men don’t talk and why I don’t either.

Of course, men do talk, it just may not be about what truly matters.

We’ll talk about sports, politics, cars, technology, work, etc.

As we go fishing, we will talk about the surface of the sea, but will avoid fishing up the true monsters of the deep.

 

Read more by going to the blog post

Aug 15, 2019
Episode Three. God Sets the Lonely in Families
08:20

 

When trouble comes, we can quickly isolate ourselves, but there needs to be an invitation to go deep and connect. God sets the lonely in families. 

We need others who will tag along and pray with us. 

It must have been a very lonely place.

He had done everything he said he wouldn't do and had gone against his deepest values. With a shudder, he realized that he was not the man he thought he was.

He was certainly not the man he wanted others to think him to be. 

The decision to go the way he went had its roots in something beyond his comprehension. There was a subconscious unawareness to his actions that now scared him to the bones. 

He was eating the pig slop of his own choices. Over and over again, one question haunted his mind. 

‘How did I get here’?

 

Read more at  God Sets the Lonely in Families

Aug 07, 2019
Episode 2. Is my Mental Illness because of Sin in my life?
15:38
Aug 01, 2019
Episode 1 God can handle your raw anger Jul 26, 2019
06:01
What do you do with your anger? A short devotional from my book 'Broken to built' https://turningthepage.info/broken-built-31-days-rebuilding-nehemiah/ https://turningthepage.info/support/
Jul 25, 2019